The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on December 16, 1991 · 73
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 73

Tampa, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, December 16, 1991
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Lakeland .Whiter Haven i Bartow Waiaa Countywide coverage THE TAMPA TRIBUNE Pi 17 A- Monday, December 16, 1991 Mary Toothman Brown stands ground on police issue LAKELAND City Commissioner Peggy Brown is under a lot of pressure to resolve the police station site decision, but she's sticking to her guns. Like the lone juror who refuses to go along with the rest of the group even if they've been deliberating for weeks, Brown is refusing to be swayed or rushed into making a decision. This may be making some people crazy, but Brown is to be admired for following her own conscience. With a decision this important, long-lasting and expensive, all the commissioners should be given time to think things through thoroughly. But that doesn't mean the long, drawn-out process isn't frustrating. The latest twist in the road that seems to be leading nowhere was Brown's announcement that she won't vote for a $1.1 million contract with property owners of the Massachusetts Avenue site. And she said she supports a postponement of the site decision until July, to see if the economy improves. Brown previously supported the Massachusetts Avenue site, but changed her mind earlier this month. She said she had been swamped with calls from Lakeland residents who told her this is not the time to spend so much money on a new building. There have been many other pitfalls, setbacks and controversies on the police station site issue in recent months. Commissioners have become a little testy with each other, and attempts have been made repeatedly to settle the thing once and for all. But it seems far from settled. And the waffling on the Massachusetts Avenue site seems to have really gotten to Realtor David Bunch, who has spent months talking nine property owners into offering up their land and negotiating with the city. Last week, a worn-out Bunch sounded like he had just about had it. He said he doubted the land offer would be kept open to the city. "Some things in life are too painful," he said. "I've got another life to live." Our condolences, Mr. Bunch. It's been painful for everyone, and who could blame you for being fed up? Still, Brown does have the right to take her time and to change her mind. They say it would cost about $10 million to build a new police station, and there's a recession on. So stick to your guns, Peggy Brown, and do what you think is right All commissioners need to weigh things carefully and make a good decision on this one. Even if it does drive everyone crazy in the meantime.. BARTOW Just as predicted, the issue of sex education in public schools is proving to be as controversial as ever. With any development at all, people seem to always surface to disagree with others and debate over what students should learn from the public school system about sex. Physician Brian Cobb had recently told the school board he's concerned about the fact that students are not given enough information about using condoms to prevent pregnancy or reduce the chances of getting AIDS. Cobb said while it's admirable that officials want students to abstain from sex, it's not realistic to assume they will do so. Statistics show more and more young people are having sex, and pregnancy and AIDS cases are increasing all the time. It didn't take long after Cobb addressed officials before another opinion was aired. Sue Russell, a pediatric nurse who is a spokeswoman for CARES (Concerned About Responsible Education on Sex), delivered a different speech on the issue. Russell said it would be a mistake for officials to back down from the strong message of abstinence, because that's the only true way to have "safe sex." To dramatize her point, Russell appeared for her talk decked out in a waterproof gown, gloves, cap, goggles and a mask. She held up a condom and told the board that the birth control method has an 18 percent failure rate in pregnancy prevention. It could also fail those who want to prevent getting AIDS, she said. Russell certainly has good intentions, no doubt, and likely has a message that's important to board members. But Cobb's theory that teens need all information because many are still going to have sex anyway is accurate. He, too, could have showed up wearing a dramatic get-up to emphasize his point. He could have stuffed a pillow in his shirt and worn a wig to depict a pregnant teenager. The board is scheduled to conduct a review of its sex education policy. Stay tuned. More controversy and drama is certain to be ahead. ? I Doppler radar helps Polk weather storms By PAM NOLES Tribune Staff Writer BARTOW A Doppler radar weather system installed last month at the county's public safety communication center in Bartow will give Polk County residents advance warning of potentially dangerous weather. The advance notice will help protect students who need to be evacuated from portable classrooms in severe weather, and it will help members of the county's hazardous materials team, who depend on accurate weather readouts, said Polk County public information officer Gene O'Dell. The Polk County Commission, the Polk County School Board and the county's Division of Public Safety are chipping in to pay the $800 per month operating expenses for the system. Though expensive, the cost is worth the information, O'Dell said. "All we've had in the past is data from the National Weather Service in Ruskin," O'Dell said. "Sometimes, we've gotten warnings about tornadoes after the tornado has touched down in Lakeland." In March, the weather service contacted emergency personnel about a possible tornado in the southwest Lakeland area 45 minutes after the tornado touched down and caused $1.65 million in damage to two mobile home parks. The radar system has a 450-mile radius from its epicenter on Clower Street, said David Cash, the county's public safety coordinator. It displays six colors, with light blue indicating little rain and bright red indicating heavy storms, he said. "With this system, we can notify the school board that we have a heavy line of showers in an area," Cash said. "They, in turn, can contact those specific schools and evacuate the portables." The county's hazardous materials team also needs accurate storm information, he said. Some chemicals are extremely volatile when they come into contact with water, and workers need to know if it may rain while they are cleaning up a spill or moving chemicals, Cash said. The system is the same used by meteorologists at WTVT-Channel 13, and local operators will see the same image as shown on the television station's weather broadcast, Cash said. System operators have a direct line to the television station's meteorologists in case they need additional help interpreting data, he said. County officials started exploring the system last summer when they realized money was available to pay for some sort of weather radar system, Cash said. The Division of Public safety is paying for its portion of the operating expenses through a 3 percent hazardous waste tax imposed on some area companies, he said. Cash said the National Weather Service may have a similar system in about three to five years; but federal cutbacks have consistently prevented the agency from getting the money, personnel and equipment needed to provide accurate advance weather information, he said. Though the National Weather Service still will provide bulletins to county officials, the new Doppler system will allow Polk County to remain abreast of weather developments on its own, he said. Always In Character Walsh filming 65th movie here By BETH FOUSHEE Tribune Staff Writer LAKELAND Big, burly and loud, M. Emmet Walsh may breeze on and off the movie screen in minutes but movie viewers can't forget him. From his 10-minute role as the doctor who examined Chevy Chase in the comedy, "Fletch," to his award-winning, leading role as a corrupt detective in the 1985 mystery, "Blood Simple," the nearly 6-foot, 32-year actor stands out. "I've never been Robert Redford or Paul Newman," said the 56-year-old Walsh, with his receding hairline, silver-gray sideburns and deep laugh that seems to build from his toes. "I'm a character actor. They bring me in to help a situation. "If Jamie Lee Curtis is madly in love with me, I'm gonna be dead in five minutes," said Walsh, explaining that he's brought into a film to add change, momentum well, character. Walsh is in Lakeland filming a movie with stars Debra Winger, nominated for an Academy Award as best actress in "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Terms of Endearment;" and Dennis Quaid of "the Right Stuff," "Postcards From the Edge," "Great Balls of Fire" and "The Big Easy." They will finish five weeks of work here just before Christmas on "Wilder Napalm," a comedy Walsh predicts will be released in the fall. It's about two brothers Quaid and Arliss Howard of "Tequila Sunrise," "Full Metal Jacket" and the newly released "For the Boys" in love with the same woman. Walsh plays a fire chief in the film, described as an "incendiary" comedy written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Glenn Gordon Caron. Film locations include a sound stage at a north Lakeland warehouse and a trailer park, which serves as home to Winger's and Arliss' characters. The sets are closed to the public. Walsh's roles in 65 films including the one he's working on now and 75 television performances, have been as varied as the man. He played a cold-blooded killer in the "The Mighty Quinn," a 1989 film about a Jamaican police chief investigating a murder his childhood friend is accused of. He was the nut that randomly pointed to Sieve Martin's name in the telephone book and embarked on a rampage to do away with Martin in the "The Jerk." He was Michael Keaton's Alcoholics Anonymous counselor in "Clean and Sober." He was Goldie Hawn's unclelawyer in "Wildcats," and the swimming coach in "Back to School" with Rodney Dangerfield. He was a piano-playing bum in "Cannery Row," a 1982 film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel about a seedy, California town where a has-been baseball star, Nick Nolte, and a young runaway, Winger, strike up an unusual love affair amid an assortment of characters. Walsh, of his own accord, spent three months learning to play the piano for the part. Today, it is yet another facet of the man who calls himself "eclectic." He has a rented electric piano in a condo he's staying in. Music to "Chariots of Fire" sat on the stand above the piano when a reporter visited this week. Walsh played a mountain man in the television movie, "The Abduction of Karen Swenson," an adaption of a true story in which Walsh's character kidnaps a professional skier for his son, whom he believed was going to leave their isolated world. "It was an interesting show the whole primitiveness of the thing," said Walsh, who met the real Karen Swenson afterward. He played a neighbor in the 1970s television series, J ft 1 : v. M. Emmet Walsh, a star actor in "Raising Arizona" and "Blood Simple," is now working on a film starring with Debra Winger and Dennis the Sandy Duncan Show. Walsh thinks it's his loud, baritone voice that movie viewers remember most about him. "The voice is the thing that empties a bar on a Saturday night," he said. His voice grew loud because he became deaf in his left ear following an operation when he was 3. Unable to hear well himself, he instinctively talked loud. Move to big city Walsh headed for Clarkson College in New York, after graduating as president of his high school class of 10 girls and three boys in the small northeast Vermont town of Swanton, seven miles from the Canadian border. "When this guy took off for New York, it was quite a move," he said. After barely graduating from college with a degree in business administration which he pursued to please his father, a U.S. customs officer Walsh reflected on the fun he had acting in plays throughout high school and college and enrolled in the two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. And was it ever a rude awakening for the small town boy. "My speech was terrible," Walsh said. "I knew nothing about the business." After completing acting school in 1959, he learned that the way to get known among the acting world was to join of all things the "Broadway" Softball league. Right off the bat, he was mixing with the big-leaguers pitching for his team with Redford on one side of him covering first and Neil Simon on second. Walsh did a lot of Broadway, off Broadway, summer stock, commercials then casting people noticed him. "I walked on stage and something happened," said Walsh, who's being doing movies since 1967. "They started giving me stuff to do." Michael Emmet Walsh, who goes by Mike to those who know him, had to go by his middle name in the acting world because there already was a Mike Walsh in the Actors Equity Association. Tribune photograph by JOCK FISTICK Quaid. Walsh has played 64 film roles throughout his career and number 65 is being filmed in Lakeland. Good isn't enough Walsh said good acting can't be faked. There is luck being at the right place at the right time, knowing the right people. But when you get the break, you've got to be able to perform, he said. "We all laughed at Farah Fawcett," Walsh said. But she "went and studied" and "she does a good job," he said. Surviving actors have to constantly come up with "surprises," Walsh said. They have to play varied roles. They have to show new talents. "The mind is a rubber band," Walsh said. "You've got to stretch it." Walsh regards Gene Hackman as the "finest film actor" around. He also likes the work of Robert Duvall; Jack Nicholson; Henry Fonda, especially for his work in "On Golden Pond;" and Vanessa Redgrave for the film, "Julia." "She just vibrated off that film," Walsh said about Redgrave. Walsh's closest actor-friend is William Devane of the television series Knotts Landing. Walsh said he wouldn't advise anyone to go into acting as a career. "It's too hard," said the man who never slowed down enough to marry but is "still looking;" and travels most of the year when he's not at his home in Los Angeles or Vermont. "Good is not good enough," he said, pointing out that there are 64,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild and that 90 percent of them make less than $5,000 a year. "You get hot, then they don't want you. You have to be a businessman. You have to be sensitive to be an artist. You have people slamming doors in your face." But Walsh wanted it bad enough; he loves acting and he has persevered. Walsh won Best Actor from the Independent Feature Film industry for his role in the film, "Blood Simple." He played a detective hired by a bar owner to kill the bar owner's wife and the wife's boyfriend, but killed the bar owner instead and took off with $10,000. See WALSH'S, Page 2 PCC honors Haines City police chief Tribune file photograph Tom Wheeler, chief of the Haines City Police Department since 1990, will receive Polk Community College's Distinguished Alumni Award o$ Friday. By PAM NOLES Tribune Staff Writer WINTER HAVEN A veteran law enforcement officer will receive Polk Community College's Distinguished Alumni Award on Friday. He is the 18th person to receive the award. "Polk Community College set the basic foundation for the rest of my education and helped me move up the ranks in law enforcement," said Tom Wheeler, who has been chief of the Haines City Police Department since 1990. Wheeler began his law enforcement career in 1962 at the Winter Haven Police Department He served as chief there from 1977 to 1980, then went on to be chief investigator tor both the Public Defender's Office and the State Attorney's Office. Ten years after graduating from high school and while serving as a captain for the Winter Haven police force, Wheeler decided to continue his education. He said he was apprehensive about returning. Wheeler worked full time for th depart- 4 If you want to get a strong foundation and stay close to home, I would recommend Polk Community College unequivocally. J 9 Tom Wheeler Haines City police chief ment and part time as a night watchman for Polk Community College while he attended night classes. As a student, he was listed in Who's Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges. He graduated in 1973 with an associate of arts degree in criminal justice, then went on to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo College in 1976 and a master's degree in 1979 from Rollins College. "If you want to get a strong foundation and stay close to home, I would recommend Polk Community College unequivocally," he said. Wheeler will speak to 250 Polk Community College graduates at f,30 p.m. Friday in the Health Center on the Winter Haven campus. At 8 p.m., 50 nursing graduates will meet in the Fine Arts Theatre for additional commencement ceremonies. The college has recognized alumni at December and May commencements since 1983. Wheeler is the 18th person to receive the award. Recipients are nominated by the public, screened by a committee and judged on success in their occupation, service to the community and voluntary service to the school, college spokesman Thorn Dowling said. Other recipients of the alumni award have included: State Attorney Jerry Hill; Polk County Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow Jr.; former County Commissioner Ernie Caldwell; Jeanne Dillard Kalogridis, author of several "Star Trek" novels; Winter Haven City Manager Carl Cheatham; Winter Haven Fire Chief Charlie Brown; Ban Cheek, a biology instructor at the college; and state Rep. Tom Mims, IJ-Lakeland.

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