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Prison closing, Operation Med Cabinet, TA Show Biz Rezoning, Balm Post Office

By MELODY JAMESON

…Prison Closing
Threatened with closure just six months ago, the Hillsborough Correctional Institution (HCI) on C.R. 672 near Balm now is in expansion mode.

New classes and activities, additional mentors, plus a growing volunteer corps all have developed in recent months, according to Nancy Williams, a long-time SCC volunteer and advocate for Florida’s only faith-based prison for women. Added to the activities rosters are training in such subjects as employability, inspirational studies, art expression and pickleball, she said, as 125 new volunteers completed the September orientation and 85 mentors underwent training in preparation for service in one-on-one guidance.

The 35-year-old facility was short listed for closure early this year as part of belt-tightening in the state prison system under an incoming administration, until a volunteer force including Williams and former inmates got Sen. Ronda Storms’ attention, testifying about the institution’s extraordinary performance before a Florida Senate committee. The prison’s recidivism rate is among lowest in the state.

Hillsborough County commissioners in June raised the population cap, paving the way for additional selected female inmates to join the 274 women currently housed at the facility. At present, two squads of inmates work 10-hour days during the week performing tasks in public places that save tax dollars, Williams said, and a third squad is being formed.

…Operation Med Cabinet
Thursday, December 1, has been earmarked for another collection of outdated, unneeded or otherwise useless medications, conducted in the South County by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office personnel.

The periodic sweep up of drugs to keep them out of public systems will be held between 9 AM and 12:01 PM at the Sun City Center Community Hall on South Pebble Beach Boulevard, said Deputy Chris Girard. Any South County resident can drop off medical chemical compounds at that location during those hours.

The collection program is provided to prevent disposal of drugs in wastewater and solid waste systems, aiming to eliminate possible environmental harm, Girard said. The accumulated medications are burned under HCSO supervision.

… TA Show Biz Rezoning
Professional planners on the county level this month toured the Tropical Acres area of South Hillsborough twice, checking out 39 parcels involved in a rezoning application from both the proponents’ and opponents’ perspectives.

On November 17, Brian Grady, Joe Moreda, and Isabelle Albert, planners in Hillsborough’s Development Services Department, along with David Hay of The Planning Commission, inspected both TA and Gibsonton properties owned by show business operators following the carnival circuit around the country each year, according to Kristy Deaton, a South Pointe resident opposed to the rezoning. Residents in several subdivisions around TA have objected to the proposed rezoning for a number of reasons.

The same group, with the addition of Melissa Zornita from The Planning Commission, saw the TA community homesites through the eyes of the applicants on November 9, guided by their consultant, Realtor Richard Bennett. The show business operators are seeking rezoning overlays on the various parcels scattered across the community in order to make legal their customary accommodation of workers, animals and large equipment at their homes during their off season.

Albert said this week the planners find all information useful as they prepare their recommendations for the first public hearing on the matter scheduled December 12.

…Balm Post Office
Proposed closure of the 100-year-old post office at Balm remains under review, according to Enola Rice, US Postal Service spokesperson in Tampa.

The small but highly active Balm facility with historic significance for that community was listed for closure earlier this year as the debt-burdened postal service contracts in costs saving efforts. The community vigorously resisted the closure, petitioning for help at the congressional level.

Rice said a decision is expected before end of the year.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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