Field is thin for schools job Feb. 9 article
Hire in-state for school positions
Are you kidding me? Why would you even consider raising the pay range for a finance director? There are so many qualified people out of work who would be willing to work for a half loaf of bread instead of the whole loaf. Advertise the position locally and I bet you would be surprised at the number of qualified responses you would get.
I also suggest when searching for a school superintendent you do the same thing. The economy would dictate not looking out of state for a superintendent. Why would you pay for an applicant to fly back and forth for the interview process plus long distance moving costs when you can hire someone in the Florida area? People are begging for work.
Consider hiring a Floridian who is willing to work for a little less. They are out there.
Shirley Fagle, Spring Hill
Consider private bus ownership
There has been much discussion of THE Bus situation here in Hernando County about the cost of running the system, the few riders and the need to expand its routes all at the same time. Maybe we should take a look at places that have successful bus systems and see if we could learn from them.
A few years ago I was on Paradise Island in the Bahamas and was astounded by the fact that you could catch a bus almost anywhere in town and that a bus ran by each stop about every 15 minutes. All bus rides charged the exact same rate, $1, no matter how far you rode. Each bus change, of course costs another dollar, yet, you could get almost anywhere in the area for as little as $3.
I was so impressed by this bus system, which was heavily used, that I took the time to talk to one of these bus drivers and find out how it worked. It turned out that all the buses and their routes were privately owned. The drivers/owners bought their routes from the government and were able to keep all their income derived from the $1 charge. All the buses were of similar style, approved by the government and must only travel their assigned routes.
What if Hernando County and other surrounding counties were to group together to develop such a system? The cost of running the system would be almost nil, due to the revenue achieved from selling the routes. People out of work could return to work with their own businesses (a bus route). More bus route coverage could be achieved rapidly. It could become possible to travel from county to county by bus for a minimal cost and regular service. To me this would be a win-win situation for everyone.
Billy J. McSweeny, Spring Hill
Conservancy group to fight land swap | Feb. 8, article
Land's value is environmental
Your article describing the SunWest/Southwest Florida Water Management District land swap did not present a fair assessment of the situation. In particular, you did not develop the point that lands purchased with Florida Forever dollars are purchased for their environmental value.
In the case of the land the district proposed to swap, the reason the land was purchased was to protect essential habitat for the Chassahowitzka population of the threatened Florida black bear. The purchase and preservation of an adjacent 210 acre parcel by Pasco ELAMP has made the land even more valuable as wildlife habitat. Since the district participated in the purchase of the 210-acre tract, its reasoning behind the land swap is even harder to fathom. To now declare this land not environmentally valuable is unjustified and contrary to the facts.
A second missed point concerns the lack of connectivity between the land the district will acquire and the black bear habitat that stretches from Levy County into northern Pasco. In evaluating habitat for large, wide-ranging mammals and the myriad species that flourish under their umbrella, connectivity is an essential ingredient. The proposed swap severs a corridor that is repeatedly used by bears as core habitat and for travel. The district funded a five-year study of the Chassahowitzka bears. That study demonstrated conclusively that the path to the land that the district is acquiring crosses the land that the district is abandoning.
The development that will occur as a result of the swap renders the land the district will acquire as unreachable and thus a significant loss of bear habitat. In fact, much of the area is essentially protected already by virtue of being coastal wetlands.
Large mammals are a precious resource that must be preserved in their natural ecosystem. To have the Water Management District willingly trade critical black bear habitat for the convenience of a land developer is unacceptable.
Laurie Macdonald, Florida director, Defenders of Wildlife
Stand up and oppose land swap
Florida seems a state doomed to not learn from the mistakes of our past. How many times have we been sold a bill of goods from a fast-buck developer promising the moon and leaving communities with only debt and the loss of the natural beauty that used to define the southern Nature Coast?
We have built up and out our coastlines for years with no thought as to what happens when you destroy coastal wetlands, sea grass beds, fishery habitat and the last places for species like the Florida black bear.
It's bad enough when it is a developer, or their consultants, with dollar signs in their eyes who stand ready to pave over the last pieces of paradise.
It's even worse when it is the very government agencies that are charged with protecting natural Florida who promote reckless land deals that will only lead to ecological loss.
As evidence of this, look no further than the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne project in Aripeka. It would seem the last place Florida would want to site a large development of regional impact, or DRI, yet developers are proposing a massive project right on the coast. Even worse, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is not only a co-applicant with the developer for the permits needed to build this environmentally destructive project, they are actually willing to swap away public lands to make it happen. The district argues that they will come out ahead with the land swap, but it is simply not true. Critical habitat for Florida black bears will be lost as developers win and wildlife loses. It is a sad, old game in Florida that has been played out a thousand times, and this time it is even more egregious as the district is doing the developers' work for them.
Anyone who cares about the future of wildlife, Florida black bears, growth management, or the Nature Coast needs to stand up and oppose both the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne development and the land swap that public employees are pitching to make it happen. Taxpayers, who fund the district and paid for the land they seem so eager to swap to developers, deserve better and should let district director David Moore know how they feel. The bears will thank you for speaking out for them.
Joe Murphy, Florida program director, Gulf Restoration Network, Ridge Manor
Land swap is best option for nature
Over the years, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has protected more than 11,000 acres of ecosystems in the gulf coast area of Hernando and Pasco counties. Known as the Weekiwachee Preserve, these and other public lands in the region provide a vast network of invaluable protection to our water resources, water quality, and habitat for many Florida species, including black bears.
As originally proposed, the SunWest Harbourtowne Development of Regional Impact (DRI) would isolate 90 acres of district-owned land between Aripeka Road (SR 550) to the north and the development to the south. The proposed development would also develop land that adjoins 1,102 acres of district-owned land further south.
District staff developed a contingency plan that would exchange the 90-acre tract for approximately 396 acres that adjoin district land to the south and another 849 acres of valuable coastal habitat west of the development. This exchange would eliminate the fragmentation to the southern parcel, provide for a more contiguous land holding along the coast, and ultimately result in a more manageable tract of land.
The 396-acre property being offered in exchange provides greater overall ecosystem protection and wildlife benefits. The undeveloped uplands and wetlands provide a vital habitat to a number of rare and endangered species including black rail, diamondback terrapin, Florida scrub-jay, Gulf Coast salt marsh snake, Marian's marsh wren, Scott's seaside sparrow and gopher tortoises.
The exchange agreement that will be presented to the District's Coastal Rivers Basin Board and then to the Governing Board is only valid if the DRI is ultimately approved. The DRI is subject to approval by a number of agencies, including Pasco County and the Department of Community Affairs.
Eric Sutton, land resources director, Southwest Florida Water Management District