Officials question criticism | April 7 article
Look into ethics of commissioners
The article raises serious concerns about the Hernando County commissioners' lack of criticism and shortage of ethical concerns by their weak and revealing responses to Commissioner Jeff Stabins' criticism. Stabins criticized County Administrator David Hamilton's questionable three-year job tenure and his actions in the Hernando Beach Channel dredge contract matter.
For Commissioner Wayne Dukes to say that a new contract award "means absolutely nothing to me" is stunning when learning of Administrator Hamilton's wife, Linda's, connection to Greg Jarque and his firm, Gritz Development, named as project manager over the Hernando Beach channel dredge. Mr. Dukes' carefree attitude should make all county citizens incredulous as to the veracity of Mr. Dukes' comments and to his weak sense of right and wrong.
Commissioner John Druzbick further exacerbates the problem by justifying that some business owners decide not to pay fees and taxes because they eventually will be collected by the county. Mr. Druzbick also incorrectly implies that goals were not set by the commissioners to use as a yardstick to measure Mr. Hamilton's performance. Not so. The job description of the county administrator already lays out the responsibilities of such a position, as well as the existing rule of law for fees and taxes.
Acting out of a sense of ethics, and demand for integrity, are the already existing yardsticks to evaluate Mr. Hamilton's job performance and his ethical behavior in light of the channel dredge contract.
Commissioner Jim Adkins then puts frosting on the cake as to the poor quality of county commissioners governing us. Adkins washes the commission's hands of any responsibility for wrongdoing in the channel dredge matter by stating that the dredge activities have been going on for 16 years "but we're just the ones that are here now."
What a sorry bunch of political leaders, who obviously have a high tolerance for wrongdoing and lack ethics and respect for the law. It would appear the only people whose feet they keep to the fire, through rigid rules and impossible requirements, are the county employees, who are intimidated into silence for fear of losing their jobs by the commissioners' selective strong-arm tactics.
Stabins should be commended for his scathing letter of the county administrator's handling of the channel dredge matter, for his questioning of the administrator's overall weak managerial performance of Hernando County government, and for Hamilton's heavy-handed reign of terror over county employees.
Brian P. Moore, Spring Hill
Administrator needs oversight
A recent letter writer lauded David Hamilton for the great job he has done as county administrator. I cannot deny that he has had his moments; but overall, if he were my employee, he would have been released about a year after he fired the county engineer. He fired the engineer because he was unable to get the dredging program moving.
Hamilton did not want to hear about permits, certificates, or anything else that was standing in the way. Everything was the engineer's fault and he was not going to meet the deadline.
Let's see how Hamilton has done since the firing. Two years later, the dredging has still not gotten under way under his leadership. The deadline that had been set has come and gone.
Now two contracts have been set; one for a project manager, this is a position the engineer used to fulfill, and the other for a dredging company. Of course these are two outstanding and experienced companies, right. Sorry, neither has ever performed or managed a dredging project such as this.
But, wait they have both performed successfully on other unrelated projects, so this makes them qualified?
This seems to be akin to taking a successful baseball pitcher and making him a football quarterback. Why not? Both positions throw a ball. Ridiculous, of course, but that is how Hamilton works. Everyone else is always wrong and he is never at fault for anything that goes wrong.
We need more oversight like Jeff Stabins is trying to obtain.
Charles Emberger, Weeki Wachee
No need shown for airport tower
The county administration's stated requirement for a new airport control tower is to "bring new business into the county and improve the airport safety."
Yet, during the past four years of my service on the Airport Authority, not one new business interest ever expressed a requirement for a control tower. But 90 pilots have signed a petition against the requirement. Ninety-five percent of the available developed space at the airport is already leased out and there has never been a problem finding new tenants.
Hernando County Airport has an excellent safety record as a non-tower airport. The airport is not uncontrolled in the literal sense. Federal aviation regulations and directives define specific procedures and communications recommendations for flying into non-tower airports. The traffic patterns at the airport are established by the airport management and they are the same traffic patterns typically used for tower operations.
A control tower is only needed when traffic flow becomes so dense that sequencing is needed to establish priorities for takeoffs and landings. A control tower functions like a traffic light at congested intersections.
There has never been an air traffic control accident recorded at the airport in the last 28 years. Only one serious injury, four minor, and 13 accidents with no injuries are on the record. Yet, in 2007-08, Hernando County roads had 77 fatalities and 1,698 accidents.
There is no federal requirement or regulation for a control tower for any airline operation or aviation activity. None of the 2006 Airport Master Plan recommendations for a control tower have been met. There is no significant increased operations by charter, heavy corporate, airline training, and military operations. There has never been an aviation insurance rider requiring a control tower for any aviation business.
The county administration argues that no county funds will be used for the tower, but 20 percent of the costs ($500,000) will be paid by the county residents and businesses leasing hangars and property at the airport. The lease holders will also have to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the tower. The administration needs to be reminded that these leaseholders are also county taxpayers.
The salary for the seven controllers ($500,000 with benefits) will be paid by the FAA from our federal taxes (fuel taxes and airline ticket taxes). Our state transportation taxes are paying for 80 percent of the costs. Is this truly a needed expenditure of our tax money?
Why has there never been a public hearing to determine the public's interest in constructing a tower? Why have the administrators refused to survey the airport tenants or pilots? These aircraft owners are paying the bills?
I have 57 years in aviation and I fly in and out of Hernando County Airport every week. I am astonished that the county administration believes spending $2,250,000 on a control tower makes good business sense. The need for the tower hasn't been validated.
David Lemon, Spring Hill
County should not okay project
As a Hernando County native, I urge the County Commission to exercise sound judgment and unanimously reject the proposed development on Mary's Fish Camp Road.
I don't care if the Planning and Zoning Board attaches 1,000 conditions. This project makes as much environmental sense as River Country and River Run along the banks of the Weeki Wachee River. Too late now, the damage is done.
Now Hernando County wants to perform the same brand of eco-terrorism and assault the Mud River? Palm Grove Colony is bad enough. Let's stop the madness here.
Let Southwest Florida Water Management District purchase the land from the current owners so it will be truly conserved. Current owners could then use proceeds from the sale to purchase 30 acres of pasture in eastern Hernando County and build their townhomes there. Of course, the exact location would have to abide by conditions contained in the county's comprehensive plan. Is the county's plan worth the paper it's printed on? I wonder.
The property appraiser's website aerial photo of a proposed development site from 2010 clearly shows wetlands. Isn't this also Florida black bear habitat?
I knew Mary Smith of Mary's Fish Camp, and if she were alive today I believe she would also strongly object. Whoever votes "yes" for the proposed development will be remembered at election time by myself and by thousands of other registered voters in this county.
Leslie E. Sharpe, Brooksville
FCAT a poor way to assess progress
The time is upon our children again. It's FCAT season. As a parent of a third-grader, the stakes are high. My son has worked and studied all year but all that doesn't matter or factor in if he doesn't pass the FCAT. I have yet to meet a parent, teacher or administrator who agrees with the test but it still reigns. Why?
I loved state testing as a kid. We were given new pencils and got to fill in the bubbles for multiple choice. I don't remember hearing about the test all year or worrying at all about the test. I know my mother didn't contemplate booking our summer vacation because she was worried about whether I would pass the test. She didn't have to worry about that because I held my future as a fourth-grader in my hands. Whether I moved on or not depended on a year's worth of curriculum.
My children's future is based on not a year's worth of work but 70 minutes a day for two weeks. There is something very sick and wrong with a standardized test that brings tears of relief to 9-year-old "A" students when they hear they have passed.
Shame on this state for allowing the FCAT to cripple our kids, teachers and schools.
Christine Sipko, Spring Hill