Back impact fees, commissioner

Published January 10, 2007

Editor's note: The following letter is addressed to Commissioner Gary Bartell and is being printed at the author's request.

I consider you one of the good guys and have voted for you as long as I have lived in Citrus County. Now, I am asking once again that you and your fellow commissioners exercise some fortitude and implement the recommended impact fees that we paid a consultant a lot of money to advise you all.

I gather from the newspapers that you are vacillating and leaning toward phasing the fees in. I would submit to you and the others that phasing in has been happening for many years. The only phasing in I have seen is exorbitant tax bills on those of us who own property.

If you do not implement the fees fully, our real estate tax bills are going to soar due to the downturn in real estate sales and property values. It's bad now, but you "ain't seen nothing" until that happens.

Have you considered the negative impact that not raising the fees is doing to those of us who want to sell our property? When are you all going to protect the homeowners rather than developers? All you have to do is look at the projected figures for the future and realize that all Florida is going to grow tremendously regardless of your raising impact fees.

Those fees are amortized over 30 years and the interest is tax-deductible and likely will only be paid for the five years that most live in a home. I believe it comes to about a pack of cigarettes a day. I hope I won't have to quit smoking so I can pay my taxes. Commissioners Joyce Valentino and Vicki Phillips are on the right side and it's time for you to vote the way we believed you would.

Frank B. Hill, Homosassa


Wildlife refuges deserve attention

I would like to thank the St. Petersburg Times for writing about the limited funding for the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

As a volunteer at the Chassahowitzka NWR maintenance facility and the Crystal River headquarters office, I see first-hand the efforts of refuge manager Jim Kraus and his staff to accomplish their mission on such a limited budget. The funding problems affect not only the Nature Coast and Sun Coast refuges, but all the refuges in the state and the entire country.

The refuge complex includes three wildlife refuges in the Tampa Bay area, and I'm sure that many people in the bay area are not aware that there are three national wildlife refuges in their back yard. If these folks could learn about the difficulties facing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they would have a greater appreciation of the efforts being made to maintain these refuges.

I would like to add that the Friends of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Complex Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding the area refuges, have a small but growing membership in the Tampa Bay area. It would be a great help if more people in the bay area are made aware of this worthwhile organization.

Alan J. Peterson, Homosassa


Here's a solution to tax problem

In a recent published report, Property Appraiser Melanie Hensley attributed part of the Citrus County tax increases we are experiencing to the state Legislature's passage of laws that "has shifted some of the tax burden to local governments." That means the state has decided to force local governments to tax their citizens for services previously paid for by the state of Florida.

Perhaps the most recent example was to shift the state's obligation to fund a Department of Juvenile Justice program in 2005 to Citrus County taxpayers. This one program increased our county budget by $357,000; this same program is anticipated to increase in cost to $500,000 in our upcoming budget.

Pushing previously funded state expenditures to the local governments is commonly referred to as an unfunded mandate. This shell game with our tax dollars is unfair and it must stop if we are to be able to manage our local government spending responsibly.

It is imperative that we provide local taxing authorities with the tools to control their spending. In an effort to do so, I would offer a solution to the unfunded mandate issue. I would recommend an amendment to the Florida Constitution be proposed by our legislative delegation and placed on the ballot that would read:

The state shall not mandate or assign any new, expanded or modified programs or responsibilities to any political subdivision in such a way as to necessitate additional local expenditures by the political subdivision unless such programs or responsibilities are fully funded by the state or unless such programs or responsibilities are approved for funding by a vote of the local legislative body of the political subdivision.

Then let the people decide.

This is not a new idea, but an idea whose time has come. This amendment to the constitution has been adopted by other states, and has met with success.

Suzan L.R. Franks, Hernando


Let's not blame it all on Winston

I read with great amusement the Dec. 25 article about all of the problems that Inverness had with the construction of the enormously expensive "Ivory Tower" City Hall project, and how the city manager blamed all of the construction- related cost overrun problems on me.

The "Let's Blame it on Winston" mantra has been going around City Hall for ages, so I guess I am to also blame for the hurricane season, and the industrializing of China, which caused the final price of the Concrete Bunker "Taj Mahal" to escalate.

Also, it's the first time in the construction business history that I have ever heard that the owner pays for the increasing cost of delays when the contractor doesn't order and pay for materials on time, which for instance was the case with the unnecessary and very expensive imported Italian floor tile, which City Manager Frank DiGiovanni insisted was needed to complete the building's decor.

As for the city manager's misguided and completely fabricated assertion that I filed a complaint with the environmental regulatory agency which delayed the project, I guess that also falls under the "Let's blame it on Winston" category.

A $6-million City Hall for a citizenry of 6,900 people is way beyond a necessary expense for all of us, when you consider that the 30-year debt service for the project will cost in excess of $10-million when the city already has enough cash in its bank account to pay for the project in full now. That they cannot blame on Winston.

It's no wonder that the beloved and late local pundit Walt Connors referred to this building as "The most expensive City Hall per capita in the world."

I guess as Frank DiGiovanni says up in City Hall, if things are not going just right and you are having a bad day, just "Blame it on Winston."

Winston Perry, Homosassa


Fighters of city hall will be heard 

Re: Insurance relief? Don't count on it. Andrew Skerritt column, Jan. 7

In the thick of the insurance crisis this state is in, I cannot believe you would allow one of your reporters, Andrew Skerritt, to write the column he did.

Is this man just naturally negative or is he totally naive? I cannot believe he has taken the time to research anything about the insurance crisis, probably does not own a home and surely doesn't care about the people of Florida.

I had occasion to sit next to him at a recent meeting, and found him to be pompous and self-serving and uncaring toward anyone or anything. He has certainly borne that out in his article.

We, the people of Florida, have rights and one of them is to be heard. Yes, we realize we are "fighting city hall," but we have gotten somewhere already in our battle and intend to take it to the limit. Mr. Skerritt sounds more like a legislator or principal in an insurance company who only wants to pass the risk, responsibility and cost onto the individual.

He should read over our Web site, www.hacfl.org, and our 33 points and goals, along with the many other articles we have posted and worked on over the past year.

We will be in Tallahassee and I, for one, want to see this man eat humble pie for his remarks and attitude. I think you will be surprised as to what you see come out of our action in Tallahassee. There will be much more to come from it than a peaceful protest (nothing harmful, that was not a threat).

Wil Nickerson, Holiday