Bears' survival depends on forest | April 29, guest column
Community cares about bears
The guest column by David Maehr of the University of Kentucky contained several inaccurate statements about the environmental analyses conducted in support of the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne community.
SunWest Harbourtowne has begun the approval process for a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Unlike Dr. Maehr's long-term migratory studies for the Florida black bears, DRI environmental studies must meet three specific requirements: They must be consistent with standards established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; document the actual or potential presence of endangered or threatened species on a proposed development site; and consider what, if any, impacts the development as proposed may have on endangered or threatened species. SunWest hired experienced and qualified biologists to perform this analysis, which met these requirements.
Our scientists contacted Dr. Maehr for his help early in their research. Dr. Maehr recommended that we contact scientists with more current information. Our experts utilized this more current data from the state commission in planning and performing their work. Our experts' impact analyses, which utilized data generated by Dr. Maehr and his students, as well as the more current state data, concluded that portions of the SunWest Harbourtowne site provides suitable habitat for the Florida black bear and that the species has utilized this habitat in the recent past. Our current development plan preserves large expanses of this habitat. We will continue to use the results of all our environmental studies in planning our development.
We respect Dr. Maehr's bear study, and we recognize our environmental responsibilities. We have worked conscientiously to create a plan that protects the area's natural resources while bringing economic vitality to the region. We have concentrated our development on rehabilitating previously mined areas. We plan to develop only 23 percent of the available land, leaving 1,793 acres undeveloped and in its current natural state. Additionally, a proposed land exchange with the Southwest Florida Water Management District will result in 1,289 acres of coastal lands being transferred to public ownership.
From the beginning we have engaged environmental experts, government agencies and the community to develop an environmentally sensitive plan. Our work continues. By working with black bear experts and regulatory agencies at the county, regional, state and federal levels, we feel we can create an environmentally sustainable resort community.
Vic Taglia, SunWest Harbourtowne
Motorcyclists get a fast, free ride
I recently watched a motorcycle speed past a Hernando County Sheriff's Office deputy; the motorcyclist was on his rear wheel and weaving from lane to lane.
I noted the deputy's car number and called the Sheriff's Office to report what I saw. The deputy involved called me to explain that it is the policy of the Sheriff's Office not to pursue speeding motorcycles because they can't catch them! They are afraid the motorcyclist might have an accident while trying to get away. I asked if they had any discretion in these cases and he said no.
I can't believe what I heard. If this really is the policy we need to change it immediately.
I've seen many other cases of deputies not responding to dangerous driving, not to mention even participating in it themselves. I'm going to start reporting it when I see it.
When will the Sheriff's Office stop being so lenient with all these reckless and unskilled drivers who are killing people every day on our highways?
James Skinner, Spring Hill
Get to know the budget process
Workshops are ongoing for Hernando County residents to participate in county government's budget process. It's important that residents attend and offer suggestions to solve our budget problems.
There are many things that can be done. What's important is taxing what least affects the residents, given the economic problems we are experiencing now. Here are some ideas. I know some people will be unhappy, but I feel these recommendations will have the least effect on the majority of residents:
• Hernando County government should impose a 10 percent reduction from last year's budget in every department in the county, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Sheriff's Office. Implement a temporary hiring and salary freeze on nonunion personnel.
• The state needs to eliminate school vouchers. This is taxpayers' money being enjoyed by a few. This money could help education's shortfall.
• Increase the sales tax by one-half to 1 percent. This affects everyone who buys in the county.
• It's about time churches paid real estate taxes.
• Sheriff's Office deputies should stop taking their cars home. Let them drive to work like all other residents. The town of Largo did this and they claim to have saved a lot of money. This was a benefit when deputies were underpaid, but not so anymore. They don't establish security for all residents, only those neighborhoods where they park.
• Increase the tax on cigarettes. Not everyone smokes, therefore, only a few will be taxed. It'll be a healthy reason to stop.
• Increase the tax on liquor, same as on cigarettes.
• Increase fines for moving traffic violations.
• Increase fines on boaters who violate the law.
• Provide residents who have wells with a hookup on their meters. This serves two purposes: one, it saves water; two, the commission will get additional income it is not getting at this time.
• Get prisoners to work more for the county. Let them do street cleanup. Let them paint government buildings. It was done with great success in New York. Cut down on the expensive meals provided to them. I'm sure they can be utilized in other projects. (Only those prisoners who can be trusted.)
• Fine those property owners who fail to clean up after being warned.
I'm sure there are many other ideas to raise money that have the least effect on residents. Call the county and ask where and when the meetings will be held.
Victor Gonzalez, Spring Hill
Insurance laws lacking in logic
I would like to ask the state of Florida, "Who makes the insurance laws here? The insurance companies or the state?''
We started out paying $450 a year for homeowners insurance on our manufactured home. Last year it was more than $1,600. We own our home, so I told my wife we could lower our insurance by dropping flood insurance, as we live on a hill. We also could drop sinkhole coverage, since owning a manufactured home, we could move it.
We were told by our insurance agent that we could not do either. The agent said it's a state law.
Owning our own home, why can't we? This would bring the price of insurance back to normal.
We were told if we lived in a regular-built home in Hernando County, we could drop sinkhole coverage, but not in a manufactured home. If a sinkhole starts, we can move our home off the lot; with a regular-built home, you can't. U.S. 19 would have to be under 10 to 15 feet of water before we might see some water.
Why can't we drop these two items from our homeowners insurance?
Earl Trongeau, Brooksville
Congress should act to save water
Water conservation should be a major concern of every American. Gallons of water are being wasted every time 100 percent cotton fabrics are washed and dried. The once-popular 50/50 polyester/cotton fabrics use far less water.
Water conservation is a national problem and therefore needs our Congress to take legislative action.
H.R. McPherson, Spring Hill