Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Florida TaxWatch knocks wetlands agency
A Hillsborough commissioner requested the review, but the county EPC chief says it's wrong.
By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 16, 2007
TAMPA - A study by a business-backed research group concludes that a Hillsborough County program that regulates construction around wetlands largely duplicates the efforts of another government agency, with "limited additional value."
As such, Florida TaxWatch says Hillsborough County could slash $1-million in spending to run the program with little impact to the environment, while speeding up development and strengthening the county's economy.
Specifically, the Tallahassee organization says it takes the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wetlands division 68 percent longer or 144 additional days to review a permit request compared to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Swiftmud, as it is commonly known, is the regional agency charged with ensuring the county has an adequate and safe water supply.
Further, the TaxWatch analysis says the county's permitting programs costs translate to $30,000 spent for every permit issued, compared to $1,383 for Swiftmud, making it 22 times as expensive.
And while Swiftmud exempts some wetlands like ditches from review, that agency requires developers to fix or create more acres of wetlands for every acre they destroy, the report states.
"The costs associated with the process used by HCEPC to review and approve these projects does not justify the limited addition value derived to taxpayers," says the report, prepared by Chuck Hefren, a senior research analyst for Florida TaxWatch.
Hillsborough County commissioners serve as the board of directors for the EPC, the county's main environmental regulatory agency. Commissioner Ken Hagan quietly requested the analysis last month in anticipation of a vote today on whether to eliminate its the wetlands division, scale it down or leave it alone.
EPC executive director Rick Garrity said he had reviewed the TaxWatch report, which was distributed by e-mail after 5 p.m. Tuesday. But he said he disagreed entirely, upon hearing a summary of the reports main conclusions.
The analysis was based on 33 permits for construction projects affecting wetlands issued by the EPC, and another 145 issued by Swiftmud, in the 2006 fiscal year. If so, Garrity said the analysis didn't take into account work EPC employees did on hundreds of other projects that resulted in avoiding construction near wetlands altogether, which eliminates the need for a permit.
"I'm not sure they understand how our program works," Garrity said. "It's only after you go through that whole process that you actually go to the permitting process."
Developers have complained about the high cost and slow pace of dealing with the EPC for years. Over the past year, they've gotten a sympathetic ear from a majority of commissioners, which, in turn, has provoked strong rebuke from environmental interest groups.
Hagan never broached bringing TaxWatch into the discussion with other commissioners publicly, as is customary, though it is certain to propel part of today's debate.
Dominic M. Calabro, the executive director of Florida TaxWatch, which gets much of its financial support from its large corporations, says the nonprofit is not getting paid for the report. He said he is not aware of whether any businesses have agreed to purchase memberships in his organization in response to TaxWatch conducting study, but said he would welcome new members.