Authorities seek 2 they say stole motor parts, gear from 3 Dania businesses

Authorities are searching for a duo of thieves who hit three Dania Beach businesses in a row, taking thousands of dollars worth of generators, engine parts and other tools.

According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the pair first struck the Jersey Dawg food truck at about 11 a.m. March 20. The food truck, which serves hot dogs, burgers and fries, was parked in the 1900 block of Tigertail Boulevard.

They reportedly arrived in a newer-model white Ford F-150 truck and swiped a generator with a red frame, valued at $2,200, the agency said. The generator had been secured to the food truck with padlocks that were cut, according to an incident report.

After that theft, the two men moved on to Sirocco Marine, also in the 1900 block of Tigertail Boulevard, where they pried open a front door and ransacked a storage area before running off with two Honda engine parts that were still in the box, the report said.

Law enforcement agencies take to streets to encourage pedestrian, bicycle safety

When his phone rings in the middle of the night, Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Michael Kelliher knows something terrible has happened.

Kelliher, a member of the Traffic Homicide Investigations unit, only gets called out when someone is seriously injured or dead on the road. Increasingly, he ends up working fatal accidents involving a pedestrian or bicyclist who did not follow traffic laws.

“There is an issue with the pedestrians and the bicyclists,” he said. “Currently, the pedestrians [are a bigger problem than motorists]. Sometimes they are crossing major roadways where they have to go across 10 to 12 lanes of travel.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout Broward County are rallying to help reduce traffic crashes and fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists through the “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” campaign in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation and the University of South Florida Center for Urban and Transportation Research.

Time runs out for woman accused of stealing pricey watches from men in three S. Florida cities

A woman behind bars for allegedly stealing luxury watches in Hollywood has also been linked to cases in Hallandale Beach and Miami.

Kelsey Hough, 23, faces multiple grand theft charges and is being held on $106,000 bond. She surrendered to authorities Thursday at the Hollywood Police Department.

According to Hallandale Beach Police Maj. Pedro Abut, Hough met a man at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Dec. 13 and returned to his home in the 2000 block of Atlantic Shores Boulevard.

While at the man’s residence at about 5 a.m., Hough asked for a glass of vodka and persuaded the man to drink from the glass. The man told police he felt drugged and did not remember anything after drinking the vodka.

‘It was the miracle on the levee:’ Couple who landed jet in Everglades grateful to be alive

Flight instructor Gary Solkovits was preparing to land a retired military jet at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport when he heard an unusual noise. And then, silence.

“And I became a glider,” said Solkovits, who somehow with his wife, Lois, in the seat beside him, landed the fixed-wing, single-engine jet without power on a remote levee in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area.

It was just before sunset March 16, and the sawgrass was on fire in the distance.

Solkovits, who has also flown gliders, said he had “seconds, less than a minute” between the engine’s failure and the craft’s landing.

“It was smooth!” she said. “He did the most perfect landing. If you could see how small that little levee was that took a huge jet fighter.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is still investigating the incident, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Gary Solkovits is a flight instructor and former corporate jet pilot whose 15-year-old Fort Lauderdale company, Jet Fighters International, trains jet pilots and performs at air shows.

The levee that hosted the jet — with its 30-foot wingspan, 40-foot long fuselage and16-foot-high tail — dropped off steeply in places, he said.

“If we’d landed in muck, it would have been like quicksand, and there was a 17-foot deep canal next to that and then sawgrass,” Solkovits said.

Before the emergency landing, the jet was on its downwind leg, headed toward the airfield. But Solkovits said they were pushed far out west to wait their turn, because there were so many planes in the landing pattern.

Luckily they were not flying over a residential neighborhood when trouble began.

“It was not ideal,” Solkovits said about their impromptu runway. “It beats the alternative, put it that way. If we had crash landed or attempted a landing to the south or north of the levee, none of them is a pretty picture.”

After nine days resting in the Everglades, the jet was met at sunrise Thursday by crews from Gold Coast Heavy Hauling.

The crews left Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston and drove 6.5 miles in reverse along the levee, north of Interstate 75 between U.S. 27 and the Sawgrass Expressway, west of Pompano Beach. In the convoy were a 30-ton truck crane and a 48-foot long Landoll trailer.

South Florida Water Management opened up gates to allow the group to pass, said Randy Seay, owner of the Opa-locka company that specializes in hauling unusually wide loads.

Mechanics dismantled the wings, tail and other parts of the jet; a crane lifted them onto the trailer.

“This was the first jet we did that didn’t crash,” Seay said. “Usually we’re picking up the pieces and it’s a sad job. But this was not.”

The jet, its parts resting in red frames on the trailer, was hauled to Opa-locka and was to travel Friday to a Lakeland repair facility to be assessed and reassembled.

It’s an expensive project: Hauling may cost up to $10,000, Seay said. The bill for a new engine wasn’t yet known, Solkovits said.

He didn’t put a price on their lives.

“Everybody who came out, the FAA and everybody, said we were really quite fortunate,” Solkovits said. “I look at it that my training kicked in and I was blessed. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

LTrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta

Cities critical of county’s new spending plan for proposed sales tax hike

Broward County hopes to spend much of a proposed sales tax increase on the bus system. But fewer than 2 percent of Broward residents ride the bus now.

The county on Wednesday released a new spending plan for a proposed increase in the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents, even as critics from the cities complained the tax effort is half-baked and continually changing. The plan likely will change at least one more time.

If the effort comes together by mid-April, voters will see it on the November ballot.

Labeled the “Transit 30 Year Vision Plan,” the county’s new document includes only bus and light rail projects — a spending roadmap for 75 percent of the sales tax income. It leaves to the cities decisions about spending the remaining 25 percent of the estimated $12 billion that would be generated over 30 years.

Sales tax increase likely not on 2015 ballot

Sales tax increase likely not on 2015 ballot

A proposal to raise the sales tax in Broward County by a penny may not gel in time to make it to the 2015 ballot.

Broward commissioners remain at odds over whether to ask voters for a half penny or a penny increase to improve mass transit and reduce gridlock, and they said buy-in from the cities…

A proposal to raise the sales tax in Broward County by a penny may not gel in time to make it to the 2015 ballot.

Broward commissioners remain at odds over whether to ask voters for a half penny or a penny increase to improve mass transit and reduce gridlock, and they said buy-in from the cities…

(Brittany Wallman)

Broward Commissioner Tim Ryan said the county’s bus system would be more attractive if the fleet could be increased by 50 percent, for more frequent and timely buses. Riders complain the buses are inconvenient and dirty, among other things.

“You’re not going to get 10 percent on the buses, but if 5 percent of the vehicles are no longer on the road, that relieves traffic congestion immensely,” he said, adding that without the tax, Broward could “become another Miami-Dade with traffic.”

The county has done little public education about its proposal. A website with information about it was completed late Tuesday; it is at broward.org on the “Commission” page.

Sales tax in Broward might go up to ease traffic woes

Sales tax in Broward might go up to ease traffic woes

In a compact county hemmed in by ocean and Everglades, and filled in with 1.8 million residents and 15 million tourists, getting around is increasingly difficult. City and county leaders Tuesday said they have a way to fix that: an increase in the sales tax.

The possibility of a higher sales tax…

In a compact county hemmed in by ocean and Everglades, and filled in with 1.8 million residents and 15 million tourists, getting around is increasingly difficult. City and county leaders Tuesday said they have a way to fix that: an increase in the sales tax.

The possibility of a higher sales tax…

(Brittany Wallman)

No costs are associated with any project listed in the “Vision Plan.” Some projects are underway with existing funds; light rail extensions are listed without explanation of where they would be built.

The new spending plan includes $461 million to expand countywide bus services. The proposal calls for 1.4 million new hours of service, 424 more buses, the restoration of some routes and the creation of others. Security would be hired for bus and light rail facilities.

The planned downtown Fort Lauderdale “Wave” light rail streetcar would be expanded to reach the airport, port and points west for a total 23 miles of service, according to the proposal. Hundreds of new or replacement bus shelters would be installed.

If it passed, the tax would be the first full-penny sales tax for transportation approved in Florida, according to Greg Stuart, executive director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization. Miami-Dade and Duval counties have half-pennies for transportation.

Palm Beach County will ask voters in November to approve a penny for infrastructure, including schools.

At the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board on Wednesday, planning organization representatives Stuart, Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper and Hollywood Commissioner Dick Blattner criticized the county’s earlier proposal, and had not seen the new one.

They complained that city roads aren’t included, and that the listed projects haven’t been vetted to ensure they’d help cut gridlock.

Cooper and Blattner said the cities want to be sure they’ll get enough of the money. The planning organization voted to support the tax if 35 percent went to the cities. The organization also threatened to withdraw support if the county didn’t agree to the financial breakdown by April 5.

Ryan told the Sun Sentinel on Wednesday that he’d be willing to consider a compromise, with the cities getting 30 percent.

“This issue is so important that compromise is essential in order to get it done,” Ryan said.

He blasted the cities for threatening to support a different tax, one that can be spent on infrastructure such as fire stations, if they don’t get what they want.

“We’re running out of time and if the MPO wants to shoot itself in the foot to appease a few MPO members, then that’s the way it’s going to go,” Ryan said loudly in a telephone interview. “It’s all about parochialism. Everybody asks, ‘What is gonna be done in my city?’ So we’ll show you what’s gonna be done in your city, and hopefully it’s enough.”

Broward County commissioners likely will make their decision April 12, Ryan said, and the cities will weigh in via the planning organization April 14, according to board member Cooper.

Ryan and assistant to the county administrator Gretchen Harkin said that only a political intervention would save the tax.

“I think at this point we’ve kind of exhausted our goodwill toward one another,” Harkin said of the county and independent planning organization. “It’s really at this point at an elected-official-to-an-elected-official level.”

Ryan, Beam Furr and Barbara Sharief say they’d support putting it on the ballot. Chip LaMarca, Dale Holness and Lois Wexler are maybes. Leaning no or making negative comments are Mayor Marty Kiar, Stacy Ritter and Mark Bogen.

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541. On Twitter @BrowardPolitics or @BrittanyWallman..

Sheriff unveils cameras worn by deputies, says they’re the ‘right thing to do’

Come this summer, scores of Broward Sheriff’s deputies may be wearing body cameras while on duty, a number that will eventually reach 1500, the agency announced Tuesday.

While calling the technology “controversial,” Sheriff Scott Israel said the cameras — already worn by 50 deputies and that will eventually be used for road patrol, K-9, motorcycles and special operations — are “the right thing to do.

“We are a transparent agency,” Israel said. “We are not afraid of what goes on out in the street.”

Outfitting officers with cameras is a response by departments across the country after citizens’ cellphone recordings of police misconduct and at times, brutality, have gone viral.

Divers photographing coral reef ahead of Port Everglades expansion plan

ABOARD THE BASELINE EXPLORER Conservationists are working off of Port Everglades to document the plight of coral reefs already battered and, they fear, further endangered by a planned seaport dredging project.

Divers on Sunday began taking pictures, video and measurements of a stretch of the Florida Reef Tract around the Port Everglades channel. The goal is to establish a baseline record of the underwater environment in a roughly one square mile area and track it over time.

The effort comes ahead of an expansion and widening project, awaiting funding from Congress, which will allow larger ships to fit into the port. Officials hope the project will be completed by 2022.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, a nonprofit that focuses on South Florida’s coastal environment and water issues, said she is concerned the dredging will damage the reef near the port. Officials said dredging for the recent PortMiami expansion churned up sediment, smothered coral and damaged sealife, causing more damage than was anticipated, the Miami Herald reported.

Fort Lauderdale woman missing at sea in St. Thomas

As authorities in St. Thomas continue looking for a Fort Lauderdale woman who was swept out to sea by rough waters Friday as she was vacationing with her boyfriend, her parents and other relatives have arrived at the island, according to family friends.

Savannah Rae Finn, 22, is a student at Florida International University. Her parents, Ray and Julie Finn, two siblings and two uncles are now in St. Thomas, according to Michael and Karen Hull, longtime friends and neighbors of the Finns.

“The family is obviously devastated, destroyed by this. There are no words in this type of situation so we just let the family know that we are there for them,” said Michael Hull.

The Hulls said they have been texting with Julie Finn as she made her way to St. Thomas on Sunday.

Man charged with leaving scene of fatal accident, returning to blame another driver

Authorities say a man accused in connection with a hit-and-run death parked his car at a Wal-Mart and walked back to the scene of the crash, where he told officers the pedestrian had been hit by another driver.

William Desvergers, 27, of Pompano Beach, was arrested Thursday after investigators determined vehicle parts found at the scene of the crash in Lighthouse Point matched the damage to Desvergers’ pickup.

During a first-appearance court hearing Friday, Broward Circuit Court Judge Jack Tuter set a $130,000 bond and ordered Desvergers to surrender his passport.

Investigators said Desvergers was not at fault in the crash that killed 62-year-old Claude Michaud, who had been crossing the street in the middle of the block when he was hit along North Federal Highway on Sept 13.

Teens charged in armed robbery at pawn shop

Two teens accused of robbing a pawn shop in Pembroke Park at gunpoint ran away after their revolver jammed and an employee confronted them with a shotgun.

Alexander Vargas, 18, of West Park, was arrested Thursday and charged with robbery with a firearm and marijuana possession after his 17-year-old accomplice was taken into custody and confessed to their involvement in the Feb. 25 robbery, a sheriff’s report said.

It was around noon that day when two teens with bandanas covering their faces walked into People’s Pawn Jewelry, 2910 SW 30th Ave., holding a revolver and a crowbar.

According to the report, one of the robbers tried to shoot a worker, but the gun malfunctioned. The other robber smashed a jewelry case with a crowbar.

rpiccardo@tribpub.com, 954-356-4544 or Twitter: @rebecapiccardo

Teens charged in armed robbery at pawn shop

Two teens accused of robbing a pawn shop in Pembroke Park at gunpoint ran away after their revolver jammed and an employee confronted them with a shotgun.

Alexander Vargas, 18, of West Park, was arrested Thursday and charged with robbery with a firearm and marijuana possession after his 17-year-old accomplice was taken into custody and confessed to their involvement in the Feb. 25 robbery, a sheriff’s report said.

It was around noon that day when two teens with bandanas covering their faces walked into People’s Pawn Jewelry, 2910 SW 30th Ave., holding a revolver and a crowbar.

According to the report, one of the robbers tried to shoot a worker, but the gun malfunctioned. The other robber smashed a jewelry case with a crowbar.

rpiccardo@tribpub.com, 954-356-4544 or Twitter: @rebecapiccardo