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Letters to the Editors

Fix problems, then beckon tourists

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002

Editor: Re: Wanted: Tourists by the busloads:

Tourism Development Manager Mary Craven wants busloads of tourists to arrive in Citrus County and has ideas about how to accomplish that by using the 2 percent sales tax collected by hotels. Before Citrus County taxpayers agree with her approach, there are other pressing concerns to be addressed.

The intersection of U.S. 19 and Fort Island Trail in Crystal River is not designed to handle the tourist traffic we have already experienced. I witness situations involving road rage at that intersection almost daily.

The roadway between U.S. 19 and the entrance of the Plantation Inn is an eyesore. There are no curbs and gutters, which results in potholes filled with water after every rainstorm. The road is in poor condition at the entrances to parking lots and businesses. The road should be an embarrassment for the Plantation Inn, which has probably collected enough in guest taxes to deserve something better from the county. The road is the only route to tourist destinations run by the county, including educational facilities, Fort Island Gulf Beach, Fort Island Gulf pier and the boat launch.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, the Fish and Game Commission is going to have input from Craven regarding the timing of the season for scallop harvesting. Does she have knowledge of the types of problems that exist with tourists on our waterways? The dive shops apparently make attempts to keep manatees from being molested; however, that is a minor problem compared to boaters who are unfamiliar with our rivers.

All one needs to rent a boat are a drivers license and credit card. Renters may be more likely to be ignorant of safe boating practices, principles of navigation using markers, or speed regulations. They may be more careless in helping to control pollution. There are no safeguards to protect local boaters and fishermen from an onrush of tourists, as Craven has in mind.

There are more than 100,000 people living in this county who are depending on the use of good judgment in spending tax revenues from the hotel tax and the stamp for scalloping, should that come to pass. Hotels, restaurants, dive shops and marinas are not the only ones affected. Tourism development should be left to the chamber of commerce. The county should not use the tax money to expand the tourist trade until problems created by its expansion are addressed.
-- John Johnson, Crystal River

Consider a plan that will solve all drainage problems

Editor: Downtown Inverness is growing in a positive manner. The newly approved Property Appraiser and Tax Collector building will add needed space and beauty to the government complex. The city is considering a new city hall next to the police station, which is across from our new lakefront Liberty Park. I certainly support all improvements.

One serious and solvable problem is flooding in and around all these locations, due to an antiquated storm drain system installed after the turn of the century. The problem is the pipe is too small to carry all the water for the entire North Apopka Avenue to Lake Henderson. Also the elevation from the drain to the lake is only a 1-foot to 11/2-foot drop.

Engineering-wise, it's called a hydraulic gradient problem. Simply put, too small a pipe, too shallow a drop and too much water. We can't add more stormwater overflow to this system from new construction. It has recently been determined by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, during its site plan approval process, that the county's first plan could cause serious flooding on surrounding properties and, therefore, we need more drain capacity to handle all the new water.

The best solution is to install a 36-inch drain pipe from Dampier Street north along N Apopka Avenue, under the Rails to Trails, then a right turn across Liberty Park to Lake Henderson. I talked to the Swiftmud engineer to see if this pipe would be considered "grandfathered in" and he said yes; it's in accordance with his suggestion to the county to go around the old system.

This 36-inch pipe solution easily would drain all of N Apopka Avenue, the Stoval building site and the potential city hall site.

The county staff, along with Mr. Burrell, the site engineer, has resubmitted a new plan to run a pipe for storm overflow runoff water directly from the northeast corner of the Stoval property to Lake Henderson. In my opinion, this is only a stopgap measure to solve a drainage problem for only one property. It would have to cross "private property," the state Rails to Trails and dump stormwater into the city's pristine lakefront forest. This pristine forest cannot be altered or damaged in any way.

A storm drain pipe into this treasured city park area, the site of the city's new nature trail, would cause considerable damage and erosion. Envision citizens and tourists walking the beautiful and expensive nature boardwalk and noticing a drainpipe and associated erosion -- to include floating parking lot trash. The state (Department of Natural Resources) would consider more favorably a pipe under their trail that benefits the entire area, rather than just one site. Further, sooner or later, and probably sooner, the 36-inch pipe will have to be installed on N Apopka Avenue because it's already flooding and seriously endangering driving safety and property.

I am sure this suggestion meets all engineering considerations for solving, once and for all, the drainage problem on N Apopka Avenue from the Old Court House to, and including, the entire mobile home park area.

I must admit I was somewhat upset to find that our county staff and a professional site plan engineer submitted a professional site plan for Swiftmud's approval that could have seriously flooded my property. Now their second attempt to solve their problem is to ignore my already-close-to-flooding situation on N Apopka and run a pipe direct from their ponds (three each at last count) to a pristine forest on Lake Henderson.

I believe all who read this letter can agree that it's my right to insist that something be done about my near-flooding condition, as pointed out to me by Swiftmud and Troy Burrell. Since everyone on N Apopka Avenue needs help, even if you do solve your own problem, the county is still responsible to solve my problem. Why not go the 36-inch pipe route and solve all problems for everyone at the same time?
-- John L. Godowski, Inverness

Voters can stop pattern of pure kickback politics

Editor: Re: Newspaper ignored campaign contributions, Feb. 20 Times:

Joseph Cino seems to be somewhat confused as to the purpose of campaign contributions. I was always taught in civics that you contributed to the ideas and platform behind the candidate, not to receive specific favors and legislation from those you support.

Yes, everyone is involved and everyone does it, no one can argue that. However, it is still beside the point of the current argument stemming from the condominium project on the Halls River.

I supported a candidate who ran a platform of protection for the wonderful natural resources that we have as a draw for everyone in Citrus County. Now, to my horror, the candidate I voted for has fallen for the special interests and eco-babble echoing through the chambers of the county commissioners. They know that the project will impact the ecology of the river. If not, then those who did vote for the project are ignorant in the true sense of the word. They simply did not want to hear the truth.

The pattern I see is pure kickback politics. It may be running rampant in the rest of the country, but we have a chance to stop it here by voting out those who do not practice what they preach. This Halls River project just may be the turning point against the "one-hand-washes-the-other" approach. It is definitely a turning point in the political careers of three commissioners.
-- Craig Abernethy, Homosassa

Utilities should research and use sea turtle deterrents

Editor: Re: Rise in number of turtles at plant raises questions, Feb. 21 Citrus Times:

I wish to make a small point of clarification. Neither I nor my organization, the Safe Energy Communication Council, advocates nets as a preventive device for sea turtles entering the intake system at Crystal River and at other Florida atomic reactors. Nets have proven to be problematic at the St. Lucie Nuclear Generating Station, as they may become loaded with algae and jellyfish.

On these occasions, the nets are lowered, and sea turtles pass over them to become trapped farther inside the reactor intake system. Nets have not proven to be a definitive solution to the sea turtle problem and have not reduced the numbers of animals entering the St. Lucie intake canal.

Our position is that cooling towers, which use far less water and do far less environmental damage, be installed at reactors using intake canals and tunnels. Failing that, at the very least, nuclear utilities, such as Florida Power Co., should be willing to research and implement effective deterrents to sea turtles. Our research shows that, for economic reasons, utilities routinely avoid or water down federal recommendations to prevent large influxes of sea turtles.

The National Marine Fisheries Service should capitulate less to the industry's profit motives and enforce what is best for the species it is mandated to protect.
-- Linda Gunter, communications director Safe Energy Communication Council Washington, D.C.

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