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I say ... how about some common sense?

By JEFF WEBB Editor of Editorials
Published February 18, 2007


In praise of, or in a plea for, common sense:

- After operating for two years in a building on U.S. 41, Habitat for Humanity is being given the boot by the Hernando County Zoning Department. Turns out that the building, owned by the Christian Contractors Association, is improperly zoned. County government has determined that the thrift shop run by Habitat, and another tenant's pest control business, are commercial operations and cannot operate in an industrial area.

Never mind that no one, not even the building's six other tenants, has complained. Never mind that commercial operations, particularly these, are far less intrusive than most industrial uses. A zoning violation is a zoning violation, and that just can't be overlooked.

The county gave the violators 60 days to move on; that was in January. Neither Habitat's members nor Terminex are contesting the county's ruling or looking for any special treatment. But, they say, they could use some extra time to make the move.

I say ... This is a nonprofit organization whose volunteers donate their time, money and materials to build houses and give them away to poor people. Common sense dictates that they should be given as much time as they need. If that means doing the same for their for-profit, pest-buster neighbors, so be it.

- Jim King, one of Hernando County's capable land use planners, has been hired to fill the newly created job of conservation specialist. King will draw on his education as a forester as he becomes the first employee to maintain lands the county buys with money from the Environmentally Sensitive Lands tax.

King will maintain the protected properties, overseeing controlled burns, mending fences, eradicating invasive plants and even picking up trash. His $47,000-a-year salary will be paid from the sensitive lands fund, which brings in about $900,000 a year.

Some critics of government already are carping about the expenditure, characterizing it as another example of wasteful spending.

I say ... Voters approved this tax in 1988 because they wanted to conserve these sensitive properties, if not for their own passive recreation, then for the critters who need a place that's not paved or plowed. It only makes sense that someone who knows what he's doing is looking after the taxpayers' investment.

- A day after hiring an outside investigator to look into the debilitating feud between Brooksville police Chief Ed Tincher and human resources director Ron Baker, acting City Manager Steve Baumgartner already made the inquiry easier and its findings more credible.

On Tuesday, Baumgartner placed Tincher and Baker on paid leave. It is the second time in six weeks that has happened; the first time, the City Council made the decision. However, after one of the council's lawyers opined that only the city manager has that power, lame duck City Manager Richard Anderson, who wanted to handle the investigation, reinstated both department heads.

I say ... Baumgartner's decision to remove Tincher and Baker from the workplace makes good sense. Employees are more likely to speak freely with investigator Jim Farley if they don't have one of their bosses, both of whom are determined that their version of the truth prevails, looking over their shoulder.

- The Hernando County School Board has narrowed its list of finalists for superintendent from 37 to six. The board intends to bring each finalist here in mid March to tour the county, meet the public at a reception and submit to televised interviews.

I say ... board member Jim Malcolm was right to lament that his colleagues did not narrow the list further before extending those invitations. It would be easier to compare the field if it were culled to three or four applicants, simpler for the board and the public to keep them straight, and it would save taxpayers a few bucks in travel expenses as well. It also would allow the board more time to interact with the applicants.

And here's one last common sense suggestion: Set aside some time for a panel of teachers and other school district employees to greet and ask questions of the finalists. Their perspectives not only should be of interest to the board but also should carry considerable weight.

Jeff Webb can be reached at 352 754-6123 or

[Last modified February 18, 2007, 07:18:18]

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