North Port officials didn't get quite the "bang for the buck" they had hoped for when the space shuttle Discovery touched down on Chancellor Boulevard in a sparsely-settled area of the city and ignited a brush fire that quickly got out of control.
North Port City Commissioners had entered into an agreement with NASA to have the shuttle land in the city, rather than its home base of Cape Kennedy, to help celebrate North Port's 50th anniversary. NASA officials had kept the landing secret, in order to maintain security for the touch down on Saturday afternoon.
Sarasota County fire officials said that, as the shuttle hit the pavement, it struck a pothole, causing a spark that apparently ignited an overgrown lawn in front of an abandoned home.
"Wouldn't you think that North Port could have at least patched the potholes in the road that they wanted us to use as a landing strip?" asked one NASA administrator on hand for the landing. "I mean, would that really be too much to ask?"
Instead of a public-relations coup, North Port now appears to be on the hook for any repairs necessary to the space craft caused by the rough landing, as well as the tab to extinguish the 20-acre blaze.
North Port Commissioners immediately authorized code enforcement to identify the owners of the abandoned home where the unmowed and unwatered lawn burst into flames and cite them for failure to maintain their property according to community standards. Said one commissioner, "You can bet your ass that this is one code violation that won't get a fine reduction deal from us."