Re: Red light cameras
Safety should trump profits
I find it distasteful that the democratic process can be hijacked by a dozen businessmen as it was last week in Brooksville. It seems a local businessman was able, with the support on other businessmen, to dominate the entire public comment period of the meeting to lobby their position. Squelching out the opposing views in support of the red light cameras.
They argued that ticketing people for running the lights somehow discourages people from frequenting their businesses. Even though records show that 97 percent of the tickets issued have gone to out-of-towners.
This argument perverts the pursuit of profits over the potential life-saving needs of public safety. I would hope the City Council will get its priorities in order.
Russ Chase, Spring Hill
Stricter laws mean safer roads
This is a sad day for Brooksville. Special interest groups and businesses got together and changed the vote to stop all traffic cameras. They say people won't come to shop and buy. Am I hearing right? If they can't come to Brooksville and go through red lights and make right-hand turns without stopping, they are not going to come? Good! Who needs these kind of drivers.
Where cameras were installed, accidents were down 35 percent. But, like Washington, D.C., money and special interest groups come before human lives. Here are some examples how money and special interest groups work: Text messaging and cell phones get people killed each year, yet no strict laws passed.
Years ago, when we had one-fourth of the vehicles on the road that we do today, we had stricter laws to protect the people. Before directional signals on cars, when making a turn, you used hand signals and got a ticket when you didn't. Now, with directional signals, very few people use them and no ticket is given.
For every 10 mph of speed you were traveling, you had to stay a car length behind other cars. Now, for even going the speed limit or a few miles over, you have some fool right on your bumper. Then trucks had to drive 5 mph below the speed limit. Now they pass you regardless of the speed limit.
How many lives are lost each year because of drunken drivers? Recently, a suspected drunken driver sped through a red light and killed a father and his three adult sons, leaving three women widowed and two children fatherless.
When are we going to put a stop to all this by having stricter laws?
Earl Trongeau, Brooksville
Tax hike could have helped us
Value added tax in Europe calls upon all constituents to pay their fair share in the purchase of goods and services to maintain government services and social programs that include health care for everyone. Our Hernando County budget director suggested a "slight millage increase" to salvage a budget gone wild with the depressed economy and housing valued at less than half the costs allowed in assessments two years ago. Conservatives on the board of commission turned down the opportunity, a missed opportunity.
Now, continued sacrifices are in store for the public in the closing of park services, recreational considerations and layoffs of skilled, talented government workers for private-sector labor offered no benefits, retirement or security. The proposed millage increase would cost just $20 a year on average to property owners. The cries against the millage increase were worded into rants screaming that households could not afford the increase even of $20 a year. However, buying Pepsi, popcorn, pastas and pizzas have their priorities without a blink of the eye.
Deron Mikal, Brooksville
County ignored cleanup firm
My firm, Creative Environmental Solutions Inc., was hired to complete the cleanup of the Department of Public Works facility in late 2005 after the combined efforts of previous consultants from Orlando and Tampa failed to satisfy the requirements of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Our first assignment, which we agreed to do for $76,000, included: Collecting additional samples at locations dictated by DEP; evaluating work conducted by the previous consultants; and identifying all potential sources of contamination on the property.
We found that most of the samples we collected were contaminated. We discovered that almost all of the testing and cleanup conducted previously, at a cost to the county of $1.5 million, was ineffective and so poorly documented that it would have to be done again. And most importantly, we identified 18 new areas of concern at which no testing had been conducted, including the locations of underground fuel tanks, chemical drum storage areas, and a septic tank which had been used for industrial waste disposal. Furthermore, we learned that previous consultants never collected a single sample in the residential areas surrounding the facility and never installed a single monitor well into the Floridan aquifer. DEP and the county agreed that extensive and immediate assessment, both on site and off site, was needed to address these shortcomings.
Contamination assessment is an iterative process, and it is impossible to know how long or how far an investigation will go before it can be deemed complete. If contamination is found in one sample, additional samples have to be collected to the north, south, east, west and below this sample, again and again, until clean soil and groundwater are found in all directions. This is the reason costs for assessment often escalate very quickly at sites with long and complex histories.
The local papers portrayed awards of funds for additional work as change orders, never failing to mention the initial $76,000 price. But the truth is that these funds were needed to collect samples required by DEP to complete the delineation to the state's satisfaction. We submitted the final site assessment report to DEP in February 2009, and it was officially approved one year later.
Our firm recently provided the county a remedial action plan which would allow the site to be used for recreational, commercial, and/or industrial purposes. The strategy, approved in advance by the county administrator and discussed at length with DEP, calls for treating solvents and petroleum in shallow soil and groundwater using In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO); permanent encapsulation of other shallow contaminants using a layer of pavement; and natural attenuation monitoring of deeper Floridan aquifer contaminants. We gave the county a firm fixed-price proposal of $450,000 to conduct the cleanup, which included a "pay-for-performance" guarantee that the ISCO process would be successful.
The Board of County Commissioners publicly stated that all future cleanup work would be put out to bid. Now, without explanation, they have ignored our proposal, bypassed the bidding process, and awarded a contract worth $125,000 to Cardno TBE, an Australian company, to review our remedial plan and to develop new cleanup ideas.
The cost of $125,000 is more than 25 percent of the firm cost we provided the county to complete the entire cleanup. It makes no sense to change consultants this close to the end of a project that has been successfully prosecuted, unless the change will save money and/or time. Replacing CES with Cardno TBE will obviously do neither.
George K. Foster, Creative Environmental Solutions, Inc., Brooksville
Manatee zones need to change
I have been going to the Chassahowitzka for fishing, crabbing, and swimming since the late 1950s. In fact I moved close to this beautiful little river from Tampa to take advantage of this gem.
I wonder who decided where manatee zones should be and why. They are way off track as there are manatees in the river year round yet we allow boats to travel up to 25 mph along this relatively narrow river. After years of observation I have some suggestions as to where these zones should be and where they are not necessary.
From the state boat ramp all the way to the end of the narrow river to the area where the brackish water begins to take over and the river opens wide should be a slow speed zone. There are kayaks and canoes all over this section of river and motor boats should throw as small a wake as possible in this area as well.
Just last week I was waving boats to slow down as there were a pair of manatee swimming in the center of the freshwater section of the river. These animals are vital to the tourist industry in Citrus County. Let's protect them in areas they frequent.
Going west the river opens up. Boats should be allowed to travel at safe operating speeds until they get to the narrow outlet channel that leads to the islands and flats of Chassahowitzka Bay. There are signs in place for speed zones at this point.
The manatee zones that are in place now do not make any sense at all. They allow 25 mph in the freshwater river area all the way to the narrow channel that leads to gulf. At this point slow speed is in force for about 2 miles until signs across the channel from John's Island inform us that safe operating speed is now permitted. This slow speed zone is in force from April 1 to Aug. 31. Why go slow here during these times in this section and not in the freshwater river? I have never seen a manatee in this area in the center of the river. The manatees hang out along the edges where grassy areas cover the bottom.
Another look is needed concerning these speed zones to enhance the enjoyment for all boaters and for the protection of the manatee.
Michael Schick, Homosassa