Roscoe Boulevard Bridge reopens after Hurricane Irma repairs

After significant erosion caused by Hurricane Irma was repaired, the Roscoe Boulevard bridge north of Landrum Lane reopened Friday.

Roscoe Boulevard was closed to traffic from Landrum Lane to Canal Boulevard for nearly two months.

The road was first closed Sept. 21.

Two schools nearby — Ocean Palms Elementary and Landrum Middle School — were affected by the delay.

State divvies up bear-proofing money

Bear-proofing money from the state is going to seven counties, a parks department, a homeowners’ association and a community for surviving spouses of retired U.S. Air Force enlistees.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Friday how it will spread $515,283 available this year in the “BearWise” program, which is intended to help purchase bear-resistant trash cans and strengthen existing containers.

The largest award will go to Seminole County, which is receiving $189,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in the western portion of the county.

Other counties getting money are Lake, Volusia, Highlands, Orange, Walton and Franklin.

Collier County Parks and Recreation is getting $3,675 to put bear-resistant trash cans in three county parks.

Holley by the Sea Improvement Association in Santa Rosa County will get $65,000 to modify 3,700 trash cans against bears. And the Air Force Enlisted Village will receive $7,700 to strengthen dumpsters in the Shalimar community near Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field.

Lawmakers approved $415,000 for the “BearWise” project this fiscal year, with an additional $100,000 coming from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida through the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates.

A majority of the BearWise money requires communities to have ordinances aimed at residents and businesses keeping garbage secured from bears looking for food. The issue stems from bears going into neighborhoods in some areas of the state, creating the possibility of dangerous interactions with humans.

For the second consecutive year, the money is coming after the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted against holding a controversial bear hunt.

As part of a decision in April against holding a hunt, the commission wanted staff members to conclude work on 10-year bear management plan, which at the time was at least two years from completion.

The state held a hunt in 2015 that resulted in 304 bears being killed. With money available from permits sold for that hunt, the BearWise program awarded $825,000 in 2016 to 11 counties, three cities and two homeowners’ associations.

Three Central Florida counties — Seminole, Lake and Orange — each received $200,000 in 2016.

Overall, the money was used to purchase 4,000 bear-resistant trash cans, 2,500 sets of hardware to secure regular trash cans and 40 dumpsters that were modified to keep bears out.

Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

The current population is considered a success story, as the numbers had fallen to as low as 300 to 500 in the 1970s when bears were put on the state’s list of threatened species. Bears were removed from the list in 2012.

But as the bear population has rebounded and more homes and businesses have been built in the animals’ native habitats, incidents of human-bear interactions have grown.

Florida Democratic Party chair resigns over sexual behavior

The Florida Democrat Party chairman resigned Friday after a report of anonymous allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior, a decision he made after four of his party’s candidates for governor said he should step down.

The party posted on Twitter a brief statement from Stephen Bittel, who had held the position since January.

“When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside,” Bittel said. “I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King quickly called on Bittel to resign in response to a Politico report quoting women it did not identify saying Bittel would leer at them, make comments about their appearances or breasts, and exhibit other behavior that made them uncomfortable. He also had a breast-shaped stress ball in his office.

None of the women said he groped or assaulted them.

Bittel is a wealthy real estate developer who was a big money donor to the party. He was elected to lead the state party following an election year that saw Florida support Republican President Donald Trump.

Graham said she called Bittel after the report to personally urge him to resign.

“No one should have to work in an uncomfortable environment. Bittel’s behavior and the atmosphere he has created is unacceptable,” she said in a statement released by her campaign.

His resignation comes as the party tries to regain control of the governor’s office for the first time since 1999. Florida is also electing three new Cabinet members and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term and will likely be challenged by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Last month, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after a report that he had an extra-marital affair with a lobbyist. Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, who is running for governor, is being investigated by the Senate over anonymous allegations of harassment and groping. He has denied the allegations.

A growing number of prominent men have faced allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to rape since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, when multiple women accused him of past sexual improprieties. After Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein resigned last month, other men in entertainment, media, politics and beyond have been accused as well.

Boil water notice issued in Middleburg after water main break

An emergency repair of a broken water main has prompted a precautionary boil water notice in Clay County.

The notice affects homes and businesses in the vicinity of Henley Road and County Road 220.

The advisory will remain in effect until the Clay County Utility Authority conducts a bacteriological survey of the public drinking water supply. Two consecutive days of satisfactory bacteriological samples are required before the advisory can be lifted.

The Authority will post a notice on doors and update its website when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection lifts the “Drinking Water Advisory.”

While the water is off, officials recommend turning off all appliances that automatically draw water, including but not limited to washing machines, dishwashers, ice makers, water heaters and water softeners.

Service will be restored once technicians complete the repair and have flushed the water lines and measured disinfection levels to ensure water quality.

After that happens, officials suggest allowing the water to run in the kitchen and bathrooms for several minutes to remove any sediment or air that might have entered the system.

If there is air in the system, the water will appear milky, but that is not cause for alarm. Just flush the line until the air has been removed.

Residents and businesses are advised to boil any water for human consumption, either drinking or for food preparation, for at least three minutes.

Anyone with questions can call the Clay County Utility Authority’s office at 904-272-5999 or 1-877-476-CCUA.