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Letters to the Editors

Church's renovation is welcome

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000

Re: Old church to offer food for the body, not the soul, May 28.

I am delighted to read that a developer is renovating the historic First Congregational United Church of Christ. For nine years, the Center Against Spouse Abuse had its administrative offices on the third floor of Pilgrim Hall. CASA was a small program, and those of us involved with it were grateful the church allowed us to use its space for a nominal rent. Volunteers painted our offices a cheerful violet, and Ann (Woodward) Howell and I managed to cajole volunteers to move furniture and office supplies up three flights of stairs. (No elevator!) CASA led lively support groups in the sitting room at night while volunteers kept children in the cafeteria.

CASA's donations of clothing and housewares came to the front door of Pilgrim Hall, and church workers Elsie and Lillian patiently opened the door and helped us lug boxes and bags into the chapel and closet to store for battered women and children. Sometimes they bravely stood up to batterers who came looking for their wives, too! We were a team. Usually there were only four of us in the whole building. Sometimes we heard noises and found vagrants sleeping in the nooks and crannies.

It has hurt my heart every day for the past six years when I drive past that beautiful old church and see it empty and deteriorating. It makes me smile to know it will be useful and loved again.
-- Linda A. Osmundson, executive director, CASA St. Petersburg

Beach trolley needs another look

Re: Beach trolley hinges on funding, June 4.

As the founder and first president of the Treasure Island Transit Authority, I was interested to read of this proposal. However, I would urge our elected officials to fully examine this course of action. When the bank at which I was serving as senior vice president decided to try to restore canceled bus service to the city, it was with the donation of the first two used buses and with the financial participation of a number of local businesses, the chamber, the Islettes and the city. The only cost to the city was the $2,000 per year that was allocated. After the second year, the city took over the transit system and began operating it as a municipal system in the mid '80s.

Certainly, it wasn't the fanciest bus system around, but it enabled many residents to do their shopping and banking . . . and allowed residents and tourists to connect with other systems in Madeira Beach, St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg. It also allowed employees of beach businesses to get to and from work. Most important, it staved off having to join the Pinellas County system, which would have meant a transit tax for our residents of sizeable proportions.

The cost of $50,000 per year seems very expensive for a trolley that would serve only Gulf Boulevard, and that may or may not continue to receive state or federal grants. Without them, who would be required to pay? Think about it.
-- Julian W. Fant, Treasure Island

Trim greenery along sidewalks

Re: Plans for Busch complex draw fire, April 23.

There is only one comment I would like to make concerning "saltine cracker box houses."

At least the sidewalk in front of my "crackerbox" is clear and passable by two people abreast. Jonn Da Silva and a lot of other historic-minded residents use the public sidewalk as their own property when shielding their houses.

Someday I would like to take a nice long walk without having my face and legs scratched on untrimmed trees and shrubbery. I love to look at greenery or I would not have given up a house on the gulf for a "crackerbox" on the bayside.
-- Ellen Margrit Ottwiller, St. Pete Beach

Setting the facts straight on insurance

I am an independent insurance agent in Pinellas County. After reading Seniors set adrift by HMO, doctors (May 28), I realized there are several insurance facts simply misunderstood by most people.

First, your health care benefits, contracts and costs are mandated by our state's Department of Insurance, not the federal government.

Second, health care providers on all provider lists contract to accept certain reduced fees for services, and these contracts are timed. When providers (doctors and hospitals) come off these plans, often without any warning, it is usually because the parties cannot reach acceptable terms on money issues. It is all about making money.

Third, insurance companies are for-profit businesses, as are the doctors' offices and most hospitals.

Fourth, Florida is one of the few states to force insurance companies to cover all employees of small groups (under 50) at the same rates regardless of medical history. Employers are required to pay a portion (50 percent) of the cost of each employee, making it a financial issue for each small employer. Many of the insurance companies that are being forced to cover high claiming parties have Medicare plans as well.

Fifth, the bottom line is the insurance carriers are paying out a higher percentage of claims than they are taking in premiums in the state of Florida, and many companies are choosing to leave Florida, giving us fewer choices. Medicare and supplements may be uniform, as suggested by the federal government, but what plans are offered to each recipient of each state can be determined by the carrier.

Many people have the notion that because they can't afford health insurance, the state can be responsible for them if they need medical attention. The elderly are finding out that unless they have no assets Medicaid will not step in, and Medicare truly doesn't cover very much, i.e. prescriptions. It's time we all realized that our state legislators asked for their jobs and aren't really helping us on this issue. You can bet they and their family members aren't facing the same issues the rest of us are regarding health coverage.
-- Julia Jones, Clearwater

A time share is a time share

Re: Snell Isle residents oppose guest housing, June 4.

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course." As a renter on Snell Isle, I attended that meeting because I find St. Petersburg a delightful place to be. My wife and I are thinking of buying a home in St. Petersburg. If the city can approve time shares, or as the Brits say "bond holders," in a residential area such as this, then what area is safely residential? My wife is in the process of developing a high-tech venture in downtown St. Petersburg that involves professionals in Boston, Manhattan, Philadelphia and West Palm Beach. Unless this time share is put in an area that is zoned for this type of activity, that venture may end up "just a mouse click" away from St. Petersburg. That would all depend on the Brits, though. Maybe they have a "talking horse."

A time share is a time share regardless of what it is called, and even Mister Ed couldn't really talk.
-- Michael A. Golden, St. Petersburg

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