Road extension good for Pasco
Extending Ridge Road benefits both the citizens and the environment of Pasco County and west Pasco residents should be outraged by any misguided derailment challenge under the guise of environmental concern.
Affected wildlife concerns have been amply addressed. If the long-planned road project is shelved, it sentences the current infrastructure and population core to decay and may actually encourage intensifying the urban sprawl potential cited by the naysayers' claims.
The opening of the Suncoast Parkway provided a premier transportation artery which has heavily influenced development. Without the Ridge Road exchange, that development centers around the other two crossroads of State Roads 54 and 52. The parkway interchange with Ridge Road would provide direct access to the existing infrastructure core for redevelopment to both commercial and residential interests in west Pasco.
The absence of a Ridge Road extension keeps west Pasco an extra 30-minute commute from the largest job market, encourages commuters to relocate elsewhere, stymies discovery by potential new buyers and leads to property depreciation, fewer owner-occupied homes, higher crime and neglect on all levels. Decreased ad valorem collections raises our individual burden of increased taxation.
The best defense against urban sprawl is by fighting urban blight with aggressive publicly and privately funded infrastructure upgrades and renewal. As said in real estate "location, location, location" and west Pasco has been bypassed by arterial road service and thus devalued by reduced demand.
Many out-of-area naysayers decry the destruction of an area of approximately five football fields of wetlands which have been long compensated or "mitigated." Yet the cumulative effect of thousands of vehicles traveling extra miles to daily circumnavigate the area is dismissed. Of no concern to those who say they want to protect the environment is the wasted gasoline, oil and the resulting air pollution.
Suppose opponents prevail and Ridge Road is scrapped? Will funneling all cross-county traffic to SR 54 and 52 eventually necessitate widening to 10 lanes? Last time that happened, the 2 miles of right-of-way for SR 54 widening near Mitchell Ranch cost $18 million in 2002. Can 10-lane urban highways even be safely navigated? Will we eventually need our own version of the elevated Selmon Expressway? What financial burden does that put on our children?
West Pasco should be outraged; waiting for gridlock is not the answer. The Ridge Road extension is a clear quality of life issue. To support the extension, write this week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Att.: District Engineer, 10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120, Tampa Fl., 33610.
Tom Finn, New Port Richey
Bills will help Aqua customers
In Tallahassee, SB 1244 and HB 1379 will go a long way in bringing some much needed relief to Aqua Utilities customers.
Normally, charging higher rates to encourage less usage is a good idea, however, in this case, the tier-rate structure is being used, solely, for the purpose of subsidizing 30 percent of Aqua Utilities Florida customers by the other 60 percent, which is, by the way, unfairly discriminatory.
In addition, transferring revenues from wastewater to water has been implemented, even though the courts have never been asked to decide on the legality of such a practice.
The Florida Public Service Commission uses the tiered-rate structure because Aqua has so many high-cost systems and so few profitable systems, which translates into extremely high customer bills. We're talking $300 to $500 a month! With the tiered-rate structure, those customers only have to pay $75 to $200 a month, and for minimal usage.
Also, these bills will address shared rate-case expense, penalties for subpar quality of service, revocation of certificates and create a study committee that will be looking at the various water problems in our state.
What caused this mess, anyway? Aqua originally purchased 82 high-cost systems, in 2004. These systems were leftovers — nobody wanted them — and extremely unprofitable. The previous owners of these systems had a balanced portfolio, which included many others that were profitable, so they could provide reasonable rates to all their customers.
However, Aqua did not have a well-balanced portfolio — just a bunch of entities that should've been leveled.
Because Florida has weak water and wastewater statutes, it's easy for the wolves to gain access, and keep control of the hen house. In addition, the current mind-set at the PSC is to pay the utility company whatever it takes to keep them in business, regardless of the cost.
Dave Bussey, Zephyrhills