Keep 4-H, move Animal Services
We currently have more than 65,000 students in 76 schools. Only eight of these schools, mostly in east Pasco, offer agriculture and FFA programs. This means that children in 68 schools are not offered the opportunity to learn how our country feeds so many people for so little money, and these children are not offered the opportunity to learn about 30 percent of the careers possible in the United States — careers that are vital to a democracy and to public health.
However, our Pasco County 4-H program reaches over 27,000 students each year through clubs and school enrichment programs. The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences pays 60 percent of each extension agent's salary. With only one 4-H extension agent, paying 40 percent of the salary is a wonderful bargain any way you look at it.
If Pasco County loses the single 4-H agent position, it will be difficult to reinstate, and many classes of public school children will miss out on the opportunities afforded them through the Pasco County 4-H program.
The Pasco County Extension and 4-H are included in county public services, as is Animal Services. The yearly budget for Animal Services is approximately $2 million. If Animal Services were transferred to the Pasco County sheriff, this would free up $2 million for the extension, libraries and other areas of public services. This year the sheriff is returning $1 million to the county. If Animal Services were transferred to the sheriff, and the county government had to make up $1 million to allow the sheriff to run Animal Services, this would still free up $1 million for the extension, libraries and other areas of public services.
Becoming part of the Sheriff's Office would also provide Animal Services expanded opportunities to more effectively prosecute animal cruelty cases. Many animal cruelty cases are found in conjunction with domestic violence. Combining of law enforcement with Animal Services also demonstrates Pasco County's intense desire to end animal cruelty within our county and the importance of overall animal welfare as it relates to public safety.
Deb Frelick, Dade City
Firefighters are due real raises
I'm a 21-year veteran of Pasco County Emergency Services and a taxpayer of Pasco County. The 12-hour holiday pay that we receive was negotiated a long time ago when County Administrator John J. Gallagher gave us one of his so-called stealth raises, which hides the raise from the rest of the county employees. That way he can say to the rest of the county employees that he did not give the firefighters more money. We have received a few of these stealth raises over the years in many different forms. This is a way of deceiving the rest of the county employees and it makes you wonder if the citizens of Pasco County have been deceived by these tactics while hiding other money in this same strategy.
I'm willing to give up the holiday pay we receive in place of the more than 20-plus percent that a mediator stated should be given to all firefighters prior to signing our last contract. The firefighters did not push for that 20 percent increase during those negotiation, because we knew the economic times were going to get tougher. The firefighters of Pasco deserve the money they earn and should receive more according to the local market.
The county stated it did not have the money in the budget for the contracted merit increase. Within two to three months after that, 30 firefighters were hired. I know that we need the personnel and many more to comply with NFPA standards and I do not want anyone to lose their job. But the 30 personnel are the same personnel that will be laid off. Why were they hired in the first place when the county knew it would have to comply with the contract negotiated in good faith?
I have not heard of one administrator willing to give up 5 percent or more of his/her pay and any of their perks, nor have I heard of the commissioners willing to give back the raises that are mandated by law to set a good example.
Kenneth Urbuteit, San Antonio
Home sales tactics gone wild Dan DeWitt column, Aug. 17
Attacks based purely on politics
Dan DeWitt wrote an inflammatory column about me and my companies and accused me of questionable sales tactics. One must note that this article was written by a columnist, not a reporter, which means it was his opinion and not a news story. It seems to me its only purpose was to smear me, a Republican chairperson.
The column stated that I should have disclosed to the buyer that the lot was on a lime rock road. My company had nothing to do with the sale of the lot. The buyer used her own independent real estate agent to locate and contract for the purchase of the lot. (Check MLS No. 2074988.) My company had nothing to do with that lot, nor did we refer the buyer to the real estate agent. We never owned the lot, so we could have never sold her the lot. Our responsibility was to make sure the lot was buildable.
We never made claims of guaranteed profit. Our contract specifically states that we do not make "any warranty, expressed or implied to the re-sale value or marketability of the home." In the seminars, we also stressed the importance of real estate investors doing research and due diligence.
The column also claimed that the appraisal was inflated. The appraisal was done by an independently licensed appraiser and was underwritten per Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines and was accepted and approved by an independent bank underwriter in Birmingham, Ala. We never supplied the appraiser with any comparable sales. We have never influenced or attempted to influence the outcome of any appraisal. The building company and the mortgage company are separate entities and are kept separate as part of our quality control procedures.
In Royal Highlands, multiple builders, banks, mortgage companies, real estate companies, title companies and appraisers were all involved in transactions involving real estate investors. I believe the only possible reason to single me out is purely for political reasons, nothing more, and nothing less.
My business reputation speaks for itself. Hartland Homes and its affiliated companies have clean records with both the state and federal regulatory bodies. Furthermore, our policy is to do business ethically and to deliver a superior product at an affordable price.
What is more believable? That I would risk the integrity of my businesses, my standing in the community and my reputation to be a part of a vast real estate conspiracy traveling the country selling homes with artificially inflated appraisals or that the real estate investor quoted did not pay attention in the seminar, did not read the contract and did not do her due diligence and now has buyer's remorse?
I think the public may be getting tired of Dan DeWitt's unsubstantiated attacks on business people and Republicans in this county. Next, he will probably accuse me of global warming and the extinction of the dodo bird.
Blaise Ingoglia, chief executive officer Hartland Homes