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Parks proposal offers a bargain for all

Of all the choices on the Nov. 6 ballot, the easiest to decide should be the one authorizing the county to issue bonds to build four more parks throughout the county. When else do people have the chance to vote for something that can directly benefit every resident who lives here? This proposal, with its plans for swimming pools, softball diamonds, tennis courts and the like, has something for all, the young, the old and everyone in between.

The only logical vote is a favorable one, and the Times strongly recommends that voters punch the box marked "for bonds."

The impetus for the parks proposal came from two directions. On one side were athletic club leaders concerned about the dearth of facilities for their teams. Young people don't have enough baseball diamonds to accommodate the kids who want to play. The West Hernando Athletic Club Seniors need more places to play softball and other sports.

At the same time, the state was telling county officials they must include more recreational facilities in their comprehensive plan or face the prospect of a building moratorium before the end of the decade.

Common sense and personal observation told the residents there isn't enough to go around. Figures supplied by researchers confirmed their suspicions.

For example, state experts say Hernando County should have four public swimming pools. How many does the county have? Zero.

The county should have 25 soccer or football fields, but it has a measly six. Instead of the 33 baseball or softball diamonds the county should have, there are only 19. And the county has precisely one-half the number of tennis courts the state says it should have.

Of course, the county could raise the property tax without this referendum and slowly buy land and build parks over the next 10 or 15 years on a pay-as-you-go basis. The problem with that plan is that the county's residents need _ and deserve _ good recreational facilities now. Ten or 15 years from now will be too late.

To pay off the bonds, the county will need to assess a half mill (50 cents per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property) over the next 10 years. The tax burden will be spread among those who own homes, businesses, industries and land and will cost the owner of an average Hernando home with homestead exemption $1.18 a month.

The benefits hardly can be calculated: swim clubs to help senior citizens stay fit and healthy; baseball diamonds to teach kids that teamwork is fun; picnic pavilions for gatherings and parties for all; tennis courts where stressed-out people can work off some steam.

All that for about a buck a month?

Such a bargain should come along more often!