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Hernando needs its sensitive lands program

We need the lands program

I'm dismayed by the County Commission's apparent intent to shift the Environmentally Sensitive Lands funding to mosquito control. The voters approved the ESL program, and the commission has no business tampering with it. And the value of mosquito control is questionable at best.

But if the commission must fund mosquito control, it can do so without tapping ESL funding and without raising taxes. Next year, the Southwest Florida Water Management District millage for Hernando County will be reduced from approximately 0.57 to 0.39, for a decrease of 0.18. This is exactly the amount needed to fully fund both the ESL and the mosquito control program.

We need the ESL program, so please leave it alone.

George Foster, Weeki Wachee

Hard choices must be fair, too

Like many municipalities, Hernando County government is having to make some hard fiscal decisions. Most recently, the County Commission has been given the choice to no longer continue to fund the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program, in favor of creating a taxing unit to control mosquitoes. It seems an odd choice; however, the commission's pledge to not increase taxes has led to a situation that if they are to fund one program they feel it necessary to cut funding for another.

For those who voted for the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program back in 1988, you may be asking yourselves, how can the commission no longer fund a program that was voted on and approved by the citizens of the county? I have been a member of the ESL Citizen's Advisory Board for a number of years, and here is what I know. (If I have it wrong, I am hoping that those in the know will correct me.)

In 1988, the citizens of Hernando County began seeing much of the land being developed, and with the fear of losing the wide open spaces and with the water recharge areas in jeopardy, placed a referendum on the ballot, asking that a small amount of taxes be levied into a fund in order to purchase some of the remaining gems in our county. It passed when other referendums went down in defeat.

In the time since, the fund has purchased the Cypress Lakes Preserve in Ridge Manor, the Fickett Hammock in central county and Peck Sink just outside of Brooksville, and funded the improvements to Bay Port Park. As a member of the advisory board, I personally would have liked to have purchased more land, especially something in the Spring Hill area, but things move mighty slow when you are working with government.

The advisory board has been frugal with the funds, and at the present time has approximately $5 million in reserve. We have our eyes on some other parcels, but it may be a while before we can get the proper appraisals and approval from the County Commission to move forward.

Over the past year, one commissioner has made two attempts to stop the funding for the program. Last year his efforts met with his inability to receive a second and the motion died.

This year, the proposal is to decrease the funding for the program to zero, and use the funds to create a taxing unit that will fund the mosquito control program throughout the county. The mosquito program has fallen on hard times, and it was reported by Joseph L. Staph, director of environmental services in an April 20 memo to County Administrator David Hamilton that he received over 900 calls for a mosquito control response. Eventually, in an attempt to address these concerns, the plan to create a new taxing unit was devised.

Again, the commission did not want to raise taxes, so another program had to be cut in order to pay for the estimated $748,743.13 mosquito control program. The ESL has been chosen for that cut. The rate for that program will be reduced to zero.

How can a program voted in by the citizens be effectively eliminated by the commission? Wouldn't another vote be needed? The opinion from the county attorney's office was that since the referendum called for the issuing of bonds, and the decision was made years ago, not to have the ESL go into debt and pay as it goes, the rate of taxing for the program could be raised or lowered by the commission. The commission is planning on reducing the rate to zero.

This seems like a back door way to eliminate a program that consistently has been popular to its citizens, and recently not so popular with some members of the commission. It makes you wonder if our vote really counts. In this case, I suppose not.

The decision to implement this plan will be made at the July 19 commission meeting. Those who feel the purchase of sensitive lands, water recharge areas and passive parks like Bayport, to say nothing of the move to eliminate a program voted on by us and not enacted by government officials, please attend or write a letter prior to the meeting, expressing your concern. Let's at least ask for it to go to another vote by our citizens.

Michael Liberton, Webster

Thanks for help after death of son

We wish to thank all the people that have helped our family through a very tragic time in our lives.

Our son, Michael Gennusa Jr., was killed in a tragic auto accident on June 5 at Elgin Boulevard and Sterling Hills. I tried to thank as many as I could during the services, but I know there are so very many that I missed. The tremendous outpouring of love by everyone will never be forgotten by our family.

I would like to thank the people that stopped to try and help Mike and all the Spring Hill Fire Rescue personnel who offered us their comfort and support, along with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Florida Highway Patrol, victims' advocate and the coroner's office. The patience that all these departments had with our every want and need has been what has helped us put one foot in front of the other.

Brewer Funeral Home along with Hillsborough County Fire, Spring Hill Fire, Brooksville Fire and Hernando County Fire were all active participants in our son's funeral service and procession and we know that he was smiling down from heaven being honored that way.

Thanks from the proud parents of a firefighter paramedic who will never be forgotten.

Helen and Michael Gennusa Sr., Spring Hill

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Hernando needs its sensitive lands program 07/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 5:11pm]
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