Re: Wal-Mart's hot item: land | story, Dec. 19
Tax cuts for big business? No way
It is almost unbelievable how the politicians of Pinellas County and the city of Tarpon Springs think.
All levels of government in Florida are running record deficits with no end in sight. The state is planning on closing 19 parks for lack of funds. Class A neighborhood schools are being closed. Libraries are limiting their hours.
The idea of taking a million-dollar commercial property off the tax rolls is ridiculous.
Less than 1 mile south of the Tarpon Springs Wal-Mart property is the beautiful Anderson Park on U.S. 19. It is never crowded.
If County Commissioner Susan Latvala feels there are millions of dollars lying around that she can "cobble" up, then something is wrong.
If the city of Tarpon Springs doesn't need the taxes from this property, then lower the taxes that the working poor and retired Tarpon Springs residents are paying now.
Alan Shafran, Tarpon Springs
County shouldn't be in city business
Viewing the situation between Tarpon Springs and Wal-Mart with a business approach, it appears that the activists who are the ardent opponents of Wal-Mart occupying this piece of property within their city are completely out of touch with the economic situation of our world today.
The activist stated in your article that it is great that a sale of this property could be reached between Pinellas County and Wal-Mart. I see no reason why the county would be involved, as it is the residents and the city government of Tarpon Springs that have spoken along with their activists, not the residents of the county.
If Tarpon Springs has selected not to have the opportunity to receive property taxes and other income along with the opportunity to have many jobs readily available for their residents, that is their problem, not the county's.
The county commissioner has stated that this parcel of land has a property value, for tax purposes, of $6.6-million and that the county has no money for that purchase, however funds could be obtained from the next round of Penny for Pinellas. You and I know that the sale value of this property is much higher than the taxable value.
Let Tarpon Springs take the responsibility for its actions and decisions, not the county residents.
Paul E. Lurz, Palm Harbor
Preserving land isn't a waste
The recent news that Wal-Mart is backing out of plans to develop the Anclote River parcel in Tarpon Springs is good news for all of us who desire to save an irreplaceable vestige of Pinellas County for future generations.
As a retired park supervisor in the Pinellas County Park Department and a long-time resident of Pinellas County, I am excited by the opportunity that we now have to save this important parcel for the future.
Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida, having lost most of its natural habitat to developers long ago. My grandparents and parents moved here in 1957 from the north, so I too share in the blame for this habitat loss as developers built homes and businesses to accommodate us as well.
Due to the foresight of landowners who wanted to preserve their land heritage, and with funding supplied by city, county, state and federal governments, we have seen many wonderful parks and preserves developed in our county over the last 50 years.
It is now official that we are in a recession, something that all but the most optimistic of us would have to agree with. Many taxpayers who have suffered financial setbacks due to the economic downturn have a hard time accepting the cost of maintenance of our current parks and preserves, let alone acquiring new properties.
If the opportunity comes to acquire this or other properties for future development through various grants and funding sources, they can be held as fallow ground until better financial times.
Grants are still a form of taxes, but just out of a different pocket. So when the opportunities for development do come, I would suggest that we move away from fully developing a new park through grants and other funding sources that has typified the boom years and go back to the model that served the Pinellas County Park Department and other park departments for many years.
Parks were developed in stages as use levels and public requests for additional facilities warranted, with considerations made for the increased costs incurred with additional staffing and maintenance costs. That way we can have sustainability of these precious resources in good times or bad and avoid the drastic cutbacks in services and staffing that we are now experiencing as well as the backlash of taxpayers who have had enough of big (and expensive) government.
Frugality and good stewardship should be practiced not only by citizens, but also by those who have chosen to serve them through government service.
Having been a member of the Florida Institute of Park Personnel for many years, an organization for park professionals, I have met many like-minded rangers who view their job as a calling to preserve the land as frugal stewards and to provide meaningful recreational experiences for all regardless of their ability to pay.
Please give these ideas a thought, then let your government leadership know where you stand on these important issues. The future of our park systems at the local, state and federal levels depends on it. They need your help and support now more than ever.
Fred Bruder, Seminole
Re: State grant to give Clearwater seniors a place of their own | story, Dec. 16
Thank you all for your assistance
Thank you for your article detailing a Department of Elder Affairs grant to create a senior center for Clearwater's elder community.
I was delighted to join Gov. Charlie Crist in announcing that 19 communities across Florida, including Clearwater, had been awarded grants to build or renovate senior centers. Clearwater will receive $727,000 to adapt an existing facility to serve as a senior center.
As Gov. Crist noted at the time, senior centers play an essential role in the overall health and community involvement of Florida's older adults. The Legislature provided funds for these grants — more than $19-million over two years — in recognition of the fact that senior centers boost the social, physical and intellectual activity of Florida seniors.
While the Department of Elder Affairs selected the communities to receive funding, the Clearwater grant would not have been possible without the leadership of the governor and Legislature and, more importantly, the commitment of local officials to provide a 25 percent match.
It is encouraging that even in a time of tight budgets, Clearwater officials recognize the importance of the community's senior population. This commitment will make an important difference in the lives of countless older residents.
E. Douglas Beach, secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Tallahassee