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Gulf Coast Week

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  • | 6:00 p.m. November 14, 2008
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Gulf Coast WeekTAMPA BAYCouncil, TECO at oddsThe Tampa City Council recently rejected a 25-year franchise agreement proposal offered by Tampa Electric Co., asking the utility to bury its power lines and adopt more environmentally friendly policies.The utility, which has been working on the agreement for years and talking about it with the last two city administrations, now must head back to the negotiating table with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Iorio was talking to Tampa Electric, which operates coal-fired plants, about adopting more green policies, but was doing so outside of the franchise agreement. Tampa Electric has adopted new clean-coal technologies and other environmentally friendly procedures.Beckner vs. sprawlThe Gulf Coast construction industry will be keeping an eye on Kevin Beckner, who recently defeated conservative incumbent Brian Blair for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, running on a platform of limiting sprawl, protecting the environment and building mass transit.It is too early to tell how Hillsborough voters will like higher-densities in or near their neighborhoods, if Beckner can get his platform approved. It is also unclear where the funds would come from for transit when county revenues have declined in a soft economy.SARASOTA/MANATEEDeveloper pleads guilty One of the biggest mortgage fraud cases ever on the Gulf Coast saw its first guilty plea recently when onetime developer Michael A. Tringali admitted to his role in the scheme. Federal prosecutors said Tringali and three other Sarasota and Tampa-area businessmen defrauded up to seven banks out of $83 million in Manatee and Sarasota county land sales that took place between 2004 and 2006. Tringali plead guilty in U.S. Federal Court to the charges stemming from the case, which include one count each of loan fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. Tringali, who faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, is scheduled to be sentenced early next year. He's also likely to be ordered to pay back close to $7 million he made in the illegal deals. Two other defendants in the case, Larry Nardelli and John Yanchek, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial, which could begin as early as January 2009. A fourth defendant, Neil Mohammad Husani, is believed to be in Jordan, where authorities could attempt to begin an extradition process.Pappas resurfaces The Selby Foundation, one of the most well known charitable groups in Greater Sarasota, has chosen a new leader, one almost as well known as the organization. Sarah Pappas, who most recently had been president of Manatee Community College, began her new post with the Selby Foundation Nov. 10. Pappas ran MCC for 10 years, leading the school through a growth spurt. Student enrollment grew by about 25% during her tenure, while the operating budget increased by more than 75%. During her time at MCC, Pappas also became a go-to person for guidance and support in the Sarasota-Bradenton foundation and education community. Pappas is replacing Debra Jacobs, another highly respected leader in the area's charitable giving community. Jacobs, who ran the $65 million Selby Foundation for 10 years, is leaving to take a similar position with the $225 million Patterson Foundation, based on Longboat Key and Sarasota. LEE/COLLIERLee visitors declineThe number of visitors who traveled to Lee County in September dropped 21% to 262,439, compared with the same month a year ago, according to Davidson Peterson Associates.Fewer than half of visitors staying in paid accommodations in Lee County were U.S. residents, representing a 42.5% drop in U.S. visitation from September 2007. Although visitors from Germany and Canada increased by 26% and 60%, respectively, they weren't enough to offset the domestic decline.Average per-visitor, per-day spending continued to decline in September in Lee County, falling 12.5% to $109.12. Total September visitor expenditures fell 31% to $124 million from the same month in 2007. Revenue per available room declined 19% to $26.49 in Lee County in September compared with the same month a year ago.Projections for the months from October to December are down, with 49% of hoteliers reporting that reservations for those three months are down. Forty percent report business will be the same or better.Southwest increases serviceSouthwest Airlines started daily nonstop service to St. Louis Nov. 2 from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.The once-a-day flight is the sixth nonstop destination offered by Southwest from Fort Myers. Other daily nonstop destinations include Baltimore, Chicago-Midway, Long Island-Islip, Philadelphia and Orlando.Lely canal widenedCollier Enterprises and Collier County government have widened the Lely Main Canal from 50 feet to 125 feet. The 1.5-mile canal will improve drainage in East Naples and the quality of the water flowing into Rookery Bay.The improvements are part of the county's Lely Area Storm Water Improvement Projects, a $61 million project that includes drainage improvements on a 17-square-mile watershed. Lely Main Canal is the largest of three canals in that area.


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