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Letters to the Editors

Story on permit reviews clarified


© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

Re: County plays catch-up on inspections, Feb. 14.

I need to clarify the record with your description of the series of events surrounding the Pinellas County Building Department audit of inspection activity.

My comments to reporter Rob Farley did include speculation that open building permits may include work not completed or undertaken. I also described my experiences in Miami-Dade where much construction work performed after Hurricane Andrew was completed, but the contractors never called for an inspection. I further explained that the Pinellas County Building Department should have systems in place to "age" these open permits and flag them so they can be followed up on and that I directed that such a system be implemented expeditiously. Finally, I explained that we were going to research the composition of these open permits to determine the appropriate follow-up action required.

Your article suggests that only after the St. Petersburg Times' review of certain permits did the county take action. This is not correct. Immediately upon reviewing details of the audit with the department, I directed that a thorough analysis be performed of the open permits to notify contractors, inspect as appropriate and close them out. I even faxed Rob Farley an internal report dated Feb. 7 outlining these actions I approved -- a week before your latest story.

We do take these matters seriously and will continue to strengthen attention to enforcing the building code. What I continue to "defend" is the reality of enforcement of all laws. Speeding and reckless driving present potential problems for the public, but resources constrain the extent to which officials can enforce these violations. Laws rely on an assumed level of voluntary compliance. Enforcement is generally resourced to target highest risk and relies upon random checks. You will find that most building departments throughout other jurisdictions will all have some volume of open permits for which inspections have not been called. Our resources, like others, are prioritized toward active construction in progress. And, yes, given finite enforcement capability, licensed contractors are expected to comply with building code laws just as drivers are expected to follow traffic laws.

The audit surfaced an issue facing building officials throughout the state, and we have stepped up our attention to it. I maintain the Pinellas County Building Department is generally doing a good job carrying out its priority functions within the resources it is provided. Its director, Rob Nagin, a certified building official, licensed general contractor and a certified building inspector, is a highly experienced professional. He is asked to serve on many statewide regulatory advisory boards in recognition of his standing in the field of building code management.

I am always willing to accept constructive criticism for the benefit of improving services, but I believe it is important to keep issues of this nature in proper context. We will continue to do all we can to bring about the highest level of compliance and enforcement within realistic capabilities, given the resources available.
-- Stephen M. Spratt, county administrator, Board of County Commissioners, Clearwater

Honorable man faced stressful job

Re: Pinellas Park city manager dies, Feb. 12.

"City Manager Jerry Mudd, who presided over... a troubled and often contentious city government committed suicide... " "His tenure was punctuated by scandal and conflict."

"Troubled," "contentious," "scandal" and "conflict": the words of Anne Lindberg, the St. Petersburg Times staff writer for the Pinellas Park government. To me, these words accurately punctuate the tremendous stress that could sap the life out of almost any good, noble, honest and honorable man, as Jerry Mudd was described throughout the article. These attributes describing Jerry Mudd are all true.

One attribute not mentioned was integrity. His integrity and honesty were deeply rooted in his faith and his work ethic. However, as city manager he worked at the pleasure of and under the control and scrutiny of the Pinellas Park city government.

I knew Jerry Mudd. I am very saddened by his death. My heart and prayers go out to his family.
-- R.T. Goldston, Pinellas Park

Traffic lights need to be coordinated

I'm sure there must be tens of thousands of other drivers like me who appreciate Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Williams Seel for her efforts to have Clearwater and St. Petersburg join the other 22 municipalities in the county at coordinating their traffic lights. It's long overdue for our county's two largest cities to join the county and be more proactive in helping to improve traffic flow. Whatever the fine details are, please work them out quickly!
-- Harvey J. Landress, Madeira Beach

Comment on Canadian drivers is inane

Re: Canadian drivers, make the switch, letter, Jan. 26.

I am responding to a reader's complaint that Canadians can't shift their thinking from kilometers to miles per hour and thereby are driving slowly. This should win the "Fatuous Comment of the Month" award.

Canadians who visit here are smart enough to generate enough discretionary income to finance the relatively high-cost stay in this area, and those over 50 grew up thinking in miles per hour prior to Canada's conversion to metric.

As one, I find that driving the speed limit means proceeding at a pace significantly below much of the traffic. It is also possible that many Canadian drivers are elderly, are less familiar with local roads, are often caught in poorly marked turning lanes or are looking for a turn into a shopping destination.

While some Canadians may be not be "macho" enough for your reader, keep in mind our sensitivity to laws in what is a foreign country to us that we have chosen to visit over other holiday options.James G. Oborne, Winnipeg and St. Pete Beach
--
Mangrove cutters deserve what they get
Re: Cutting of mangroves creates a fine mess Jan. 31.
What is the sense of having laws if they are not upheld? The couple who brazenly cut all the mangroves on their property should be forced to sell their house to pay a big fine. Then they might learn that the laws include them.
What gall to cut after they'd been told they could not destroy mangroves. I hope they don't get away with that.
Jeanne L. Ferriter, St. Petersburg

Photo of dancing girl brings a smile

Every morning I read the newspaper -- and most mornings I'm depressed or, at times, frightened at what is happening in the world today. But not Feb. 12.

The Neighborhood Times section fell out onto the porch floor as I picked up the paper. So I decided to read that section first.

I didn't have to go far before my face broke out in a smile. On the front page of the Neighborhood Times was a wonderful picture of a little girl dancing with her dad. It made me think of a line from a song made famous by Louis Armstrong, "and I think to myself, what a wonderful world."
-- Kathleen Noe, Indian Shores

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