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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - New manatee-protections zones for western Pinellas County, which continue to spark criticism from boaters, are expected to take effect in six to 12 months.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the zones after its final public hearing on the rules June 24 in Sarasota. The total area in Pinellas affected by the zones is about 11.6 percent of inshore waters, including most of Indian Rocks Beach, except the Intracoastal Waterway. Regulations will be in effect April through October.

The agency’s decision has prompted Indian Rocks Beach boaters and others to threaten legal action to overturn the decision. That includes hiring an attorney to file an injunction against the state’s action and distributing a petition to local state and federal representatives to relieve IRB citizens from “undue interference” with the rights of fishers, boaters and water skiers.

Bob Griffin, president of the IRB Boat Club, said the agency held meetings at times and places people couldn’t go to because of work and other obligations.
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SEMINOLE - Tampa Bay Newspapers won 11 awards in the Florida Press Association’s 2014 Better Weekly Newspaper Contest.

More than 1,600 entries were submitted in the annual contest. The awards were presented at the FPA’s annual convention, which was held July 23-24 at the Westin in Lake Mary.

The list of awards:

- Second place, Lee Clark Zumpe, art-entertainment and review reporting, Largo Leader.

- Second place, Juliana A. Torres, faith and family reporting, Largo Leader.
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Crime, Crashes & Fires
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LARGO - Police say a 20-year-old Largo man suffocated his 8-week-old daughter and then reported to police that he had found her unresponsive on a couch.

Largo police went to a home in the 500 block of First Avenue Northeast about 10:15 p.m. July 24, after a call came in about an unresponsive 8-week-old female child named Leah Johnson, according to a media release. Her father, Stephen Joseph Johnson, told police that he found her face down on the couch after he woke up from a nap with her. The baby was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead at 11:12 p.m.
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Health News
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OLDSMAR - Pinellas County Mosquito Control confirmed a positive test for West Nile virus in a sentinel chicken July 28, marking the third confirmed positive in Pinellas County this year. The chicken was located in Oldsmar.

Two other positive tests were confirmed this month, the first in a chicken located on the grounds of the county’s Keller Water Treatment Facility in Tarpon Springs on July 8, and the second in a chicken located near Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg on July 14.
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Pinellas County
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CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously July 21 to declare three parcels of land on Gulf Boulevard in Indian Rocks Beach as surplus.

The city requested that the county take the necessary steps to put the land up for sell because Indian Rocks Beach wants to include the prime spot in its redevelopment plans.

Pinellas County purchased three adjacent parcels located on the east side of Gulf Boulevard between 23rd and 24th avenues in 2006. The plan had been to put in a public parking lot for access to the beach. The purchase price was $2.8 million and included 36,000 square feet (.8264 acres) of land and two businesses. The county paid to demolish the convenience store and gas station and the environmental cleanup. Penny for Pinellas sales tax money funded the deal.
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Largo Leader
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LARGO - For the first time ever, Largo Fire Rescue has been classified among the most effective fire departments in the nation, a ranking that could mean lower insurance rates for Largo businesses and residents.

Fire Chief Shelby Willis found out July 17 that her department had an ISO Public Protection Classification of 1, directly from the director of a company that evaluates municipal fire protection efforts nationwide. Of about 47,000 fire departments in the nation, only 138 of them share the top classification that Largo now boasts.
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Seminole Beacon
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CLEARWATER - The Great Recession has taken a toll on youth sports programs in unincorporated Pinellas. Representatives from Seminole attended the July 21 County Commission meeting to ask for help.

“We used to get maintenance funding and grants, but we’ve received no money in the last seven years,” Arrow Woodard, a volunteer for the Seminole Junior Warhawks, told commissioners. “We have survived with registration fees and sponsorships.”
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WASHINGTON DC - The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation cosponsored by Congressman David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, July 27 to fight the problem of illegal fishing from foreign vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 774) passed the House by voice vote.

“Illegal fishing from foreign vessels is a direct threat to the livelihood of thousands of hardworking Americans along the Gulf coast as well as the quality of life throughout our Bay area communities. This bill will strengthen enforcement mechanisms against those who illegally fish our waters and will protect this important resource for our recreational, commercial, and charter boat fisherman,” Jolly said.

The Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act stiffens penalties for those caught illegally fishing in U.S. waters by potentially stripping poachers of their boats and equipment and laying the groundwork for criminal charges based on the laws of their home countries.
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