Audit: Merge 19 fire services story, March 18
Single fire service idea a no brainer
The recent report from Pinellas County Clerk of the Court Ken Burke found that the taxpayers of the county would save anywhere from $10 million to almost $40 million if fire services were consolidated.
Given the recent downturn in the economy, I think this is a no brainer. The argument that response times would suffer is premature. Emergency response times can be maintained at their current levels.
The consolidation of fire services does not necessarily mean loss of jobs to fire personnel, and savings can come from economies of scale when departments are consolidated as well as more efficient use of resources and personnel.
Even more millions of taxpayer money could be saved if our county would do away with the dual Sunstar/fire department response to emergency calls.
Our elected representatives have done a poor job of managing our tax dollars. Before any increases in property taxes are considered, officials need to take a good look at how to best proceed with consolidation of fire and emergency medical services.
Paul Lee, Tierra Verde
School land for sale? | story, March 15
Let empty schools become new ones
I am a taxpayer and homeowner of Clearwater for more than 20 years. I expect my tax dollars to be used efficiently, and when it comes to educating Pinellas children, my money should benefit all schools in the Pinellas system.
I read that there are 22 Pinellas sites which aren't being used to educate but instead are sitting vacant or will be turned into parking lots for buses. This really got me interested. I have seen this school near me, South Ward Elementary, sitting empty for over a year, I believe. So I began asking around.
It seems there are charter schools and private schools that have been making offers to the Pinellas School Board to buy some of these locations, but the board has refused to sell. That can't be so, I said. The school budget is always "in crisis," education results seem to be falling every year, and yet they are refusing to sell perfectly good school buildings to Pinellas charter schools?
What is a better use for a school building: to sell to a school that is a member of the Pinellas system (which charter schools are), a school that may desperately wish to expand into larger facilities, or to let these buildings sit empty to waste away or, even worse, to turn them into parking lots for buses?
If the school system needs money, then sell a useful building to a school that will use it to educate our local children.
Please assure me that as public servants, you are serving the needs — frankly, the demands — of the public taxpayers who pay your salaries. Please tell me you agree that school buildings sitting vacant are infinitely more valuable to society being used for education than for storage, buses or even a park. Please assure me that all these reports from friends and newspapers are false and that you are actively working to sell these taxpayer owned buildings to any serious buyer who intends to use them for schools immediately.
I look forward to discovering that our empty school buildings will soon be put to use again for the purpose they were designed for and ultimately what your mission as a School Board is: the education of all Pinellas children.
Carolyn White, Clearwater
Thanks to all you volunteer painters
On Saturday, a group from "Paint Your Heart Out Clearwater" painted my home. I just wanted to thank all who came out and gave their time to do this. My home wasn't the only one painted by them.
These groups are made up of business persons and employees. I would like to mention them all by name, but that would be impossible. Again, thanks to all who gave their time for a worthwhile project.
Jo Ann Wolfe, Clearwater