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    Letters to the Editors

    Stadium could turn into big money pit

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 2000

    Re: Report: Future spring-training site gleams, Dec. 2 story.

    So the environmental report on the proposed St. Petersburg Junior College stadium site came back squeaky clean. I find it curious that neither city official quoted in the article makes any mention of the environmental concerns of the surrounding neighborhoods, namely the sinkhole and flooding problems. Whether or not the former landfill site can support the stadium seems to be the city's only concern.

    The widening of Drew Street dramatically increased the stormwater runoff along Drew, flooding streets, homes and vehicles in several neighborhoods.

    One area seriously affected runs along the west side of the proposed stadium site. In two years, the city will attempt yet another drainage project to try to control the flooding. This will be the third major drainage project in 20 years.

    However, the city has run out of viable options. The best solution would be to widen the channel enough to handle the huge volume of water that now flows through this region. However, there are a number of homes that stand in the way.

    We all know what the city finally had to do with the Kapok Mobile Home Park -- buy it back and turn the land back into a flood plain. That came with a high price, paid by the taxpayers. Could we be headed down the same path? After all, any major construction on the SPJC site will only increase the runoff and flooding.

    We desperately need to keep as much green space as we can. The building of the stadium on this site isn't just a neighborhood problem. It is a taxpayer problem. It has the potential of turning into one huge money pit. Doesn't sound so squeaky clean anymore, does it?
    -- Jeanne Johnson, Clearwater

    Facts are not available to make decision on stadium site

    The Clearwater City Commission should reserve its decision on the site for a Phillies stadium until all the facts are in. It would not be prudent to enter into any agreement that would be embarrassing and costly to cancel.

    The 85 or more families who will have their quality of life jeopardized, and the structural stability and safe occupancy of more than $13-million of homestead that may be further jeopardized, have not been fairly considered.

    Proponents for the use of the site have promised not to do anything or use any construction methods that would increase the area's sinkhole problem. When asked at the public meetings how they would be sure they would not make the problem worse if they didn't know what the problem was, there was silence. The facts to be determined go beyond the construction site of 32 acres.

    It is generally agreed that sinkholes are a result of rain percolating through the ground and becoming acidic as it passes through organic matter. This acidic water reaches the limestone strata and dissolves it. Factors that contribute to this process include drought conditions, excessive withdrawal of groundwater, drilling new wells, and diverting surface water from a large area and concentrating it at a single point, artificially creating ponds.

    On the converse side, underground layers of dense clay can postpone sinkhole subsidence.

    Several of these factors are dominant in the current situation. We have had an excellent concentrated source of organic matter to acidify the percolating water. Fifty years of this activity may be the cause of a 17- to 34-foot thick layer of weathered limestone on top of the limestone rock. This weathered limestone has no bearing capacity.

    We also have an extensive channelization of surface water and the creation of the artificial retention pond at the low elevation.

    Drought conditions could be a factor, but the condition of the vegetation in the area would indicate adequate water has been applied to the area, the equivalent to normal rainfall. The existence of an impervious clay underground layer is questionable, as there is a history of inability to use shallow wells.

    Given the complicated conditions of this situation, it should take more than the promise "Trust us, you're in good hands," to answer the concerned opposition.

    Before any decision can be made, we need to know what effect the removal of the dump material and the mechanical compaction of any replacement fill will have. We need to know what the effect of any changes to the pervious surface and channelization of the surface discharge will be. At this point, we know nothing since the information has yet to be developed.

    And finally, when whatever is done in a way that will not increase the problems of the homeowners of College Hill, we will need a system in place to monitor the results.

    I urge you to get all the facts, study them and then make your decision.
    -- Lee Regulski, Clearwater

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