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Letters to the Editors

New City Hall sure to break bank


© St. Petersburg Times
published April 20, 2003

Editor: I attended Inverness' Capital Improvements Workshop on Thursday and came away in total and complete shock at the "sticker price" of one of the items on the agenda. Inverness taxpayers (of which I am one) are being asked -- no, told -- that we are going to pay in excess of $6-million for the construction and equipping of a new City Hall complex in downtown Inverness.

I understand that a little extra space may be needed for the administration of a growing city government, but it seems that taxpayers are being told that if the present city administrator, Frank DiGiovanni, and his staff are to be properly housed to perform their daily duties that a government complex must be constructed the likes of which not even the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners could ever imagine.

In November, Inverness police officers were awarded a minus raise -- they received a 1.5 percent raise, but their dependent health care coverage was taken away, for a net loss. The reason for this money saving gesture by the City Council was stated by council member John Sullivan, who noted the downturn in the nation's economy, saying, "This is not the year to bust our budget," and, "I'm personally going to hold the line on costs."

Council member Jacquie Hepfer then made a motion to support this position, and by a unanimous vote the police officers' fate was sealed.

This month, the Inverness Public Employees Union was also told by DiGiovanni that because the economy is in a slump, the city may not be able to give them what the union desires in raises for city employees, but that all city employees would be treated the same.

He further stated that, "The problem is that the economy is very bad, and revenues are greatly reduced." What has changed in the last few days that we don't know about? We all knew that the economy was bad last year and that it hasn't gotten any better and that everyone, including our elected officials in Tallahassee, is wrestling with massive reduced revenues.

Still, little old Inverness is moving quickly ahead (with construction starting sometime in September) with plans to construct a $6-million City Hall "Taj Mahal" complex for a city of about 6,800 residents.

This "absolute necessity," we are told, will cost every one of us in excess of $1,000 when you factor in the debt service for this monumental money pit. Is this how you want your tax money spent? If this isn't Enron-like or MCI-like fiscal irresponsibility at its very best or worst, I don't know what is.

If we, the taxpayers, don't stand up and demand financial accountability from our elected officials and their city manager, we all are going to be saddled with a massive debt service for many years to pay for this edifice to excess. Something must be done now!
-- Winston Perry, Inverness

Veterans getting awards, but losing their benefits

Editor: Re: For a war long ago, vet gets his award, April 16 Times:

Congress member Ginny Brown-Waite was in Brooksville this week to present a long-delayed Purple Heart medal to Thomas Sacco. Sacco was wounded in 1945, but because of bureaucratic delays and a fire that destroyed records, he never received the citation until now.

One wonders if Ms. Brown-Waite relayed to Mr. Sacco that a few weeks earlier she had voted to approve the president's budget. That budget provided $1-trillion or so for his wealthy friends, but in order to afford that, it was necessary to cut veterans benefits.
-- Neil A. Hilmer, Weeki Wachee

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