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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001
About 10 years ago, my daughter was struck by a passing vehicle in Belleair Bluffs. She was rescued by the Belleair Bluffs Fire Department. Fortunately, their quick and capable response allowed her a full recovery from her injuries.
Since that time, and in appreciation of their efforts, I have maintained a relationship with these fine men at the Belleair Bluffs Fire Department and have been a supporter of causes relating to them. I moved a short distance away into the Harbor Bluffs community, which also is served by the same fire department.
An unfortunate situation of representation exists in regards to the department. The Belleair Bluffs Fire Department covers five communities. One of them, Belleair Bluffs, has unilateral decisionmaking power over issues relating to the fire department (including its elimination!) even though they pay less than 50 percent of the fire response taxes. Furthermore, we, the representatives of these other communities, are unwelcome at Belleair Bluffs commission meetings and are given no voice. Taxation without representation is another issue.
A referendum will be voted on Tuesday by the citizens of Belleair Bluffs. A "no" vote on the referendum allows the fire department to be replaced or eliminated by just three commission member votes. Since commissioners change from year to year, and with their personalities and power struggles potentially affecting the livelihoods of the longtime firefighters, Belleair Bluff's voters should vote "yes" on the fire department referendum.
-- Marla Russell, Harbor Bluffs
To the voters of Oldsmar:
On Tuesday there will be three other items besides the City Council seats on the ballot. They are all proposed changes to the city charter. When you see these on the ballot, most likely you will not be aware what you are voting for.
Two of the issues are mainly corrective ones that need to be in place for the charter to be clarified properly. One item that references the Charter Review Committee needs to be discussed so that you are aware of what you are voting for.
The City Council wants to change the appointment of this committee from every three years to every 10 years. The proposed amendment would mean that no committee would be needed to check over the charter for a 10-year period. This takes out the checks and balances of reviewing the charter by citizens.
There is a provision that says the City Council could form this committee earlier if it deems this to be necessary. The problem with this premise is that no changes would be provided unless council makes that decision.
I would ask that you think about how you would feel about a 10-year waiting period as opposed to a three-year period.
Please consider your vote on this amendment and hopefully you will see the merits of staying with the three-year appointments.
Jerry Walters, Oldsmar
Re: Casino boat plan at docks changes, March 6 story.
In response to my fellow merchants at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks regarding whether casino boat operations help or hurt the community at large: My stand is, and will always be, that any enterprise that comes to our community will positively affect our economy.
I must remind my fellow merchants that we are a community with other merchants who are not tourist-related. Basic economics tells us that the community as a whole will benefit from this venture, especially when it is new money that comes from outside the city and is dumped in our laps.
I remind you that we should not be self-serving; quite the contrary, we should go forth with a spirit of community awareness for all.
As for parking, let me remind all of you that the Billiris family has provided parking for the merchants at the docks for 55 years. Forty of those years it was free parking, at no cost to any merchant there. My tenants will be provided parking by Billiris land. We have never and will never burden our community with our responsibilities.
In closing, my question is: Do our merchants that are concerned about parking furnish parking for their employees and customers? We do.
-- George Billiris, Tarpon Springs
Re: Penny-fed, Pinellas' garden grew, Feb. 22.
I hope you can print one more article regarding the Botanical Gardens. I think the reporters missed the total concept of what the gardens are about and what they will do for Pinellas County. All they see is dollar signs.
Yes, it is being partially funded by Penny for Pinellas and yes, it has grown from its original concept to its present size, but when completed it will serve as an educational facility for all citizens and visitors as well as a thing of beauty. It is preserving a sensitive ecosystem that could otherwise become another shopping mall or high-rise condo.
The article failed to mention that it is being maintained by the volunteer master gardeners from the Cooperative Extension Service in Largo. These master gardener volunteers save the county thousands of dollars yearly. Here are the figures from the year 2000: total volunteers, 128; total volunteer hours donated to the county, 16,875; total value of their services, $250,259.96
These volunteers perform many tasks: They maintain the grounds at the extension service, serve as clerical help, work with 4-H groups and school programs -- all at no cost to the community. Allowed to continue, it will be something that will give back to the community many times over.
-- Charles E. Iserman, Safety Harbor
Re: SPJC could be a 4-year school in 2002, Feb. 17 story.
As a North Pinellas resident and father of three college-bound children, I was pleased to read about the proposed expansion of the St. Petersburg Junior College curriculum. But I have some concerns about changing the name from St. Petersburg Junior College to St. Petersburg College and University Center (what a mouthful).
With campuses throughout the county, why not choose a more inclusive name that reflects the extended community served by the school? Maybe, something like Pinellas College or Gulf Coast College.
I am sure that others share my view. Why not poll your readership about ideas for a new name?
Now, about the name of this newspaper . . . .
-- Patrick Harned, Palm Harbor