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Largo Central Park could be an economic gem

Editor: I hope that opponents of the proposed theater in Largo Central Park took note of the size of the crowds at Eight O'Clock Theatre's production of Nunsense recently.

This 10-year-old group has survived despite the burning of its home at the Largo Community Center a few years ago. The center was rebuilt, but not to house theatrical productions.

Faced with no home to go back to (didn't insurance money cover what was lost?), Largo High School's auditorium served as a refuge, but in no way does it seem a proper permanent solution to the fact that Largo's public and the theater's staff and performers deserve better.

The high school's auditorium has poor acoustics, and its hardwood seats are nothing short of tortuous. These drawbacks did not deter theatergoers from attending the recent shows, but it remains that the need for a theater still exists.

In fact, the realistic possibility that some of the high school's performing arts groups could take advantage of the close proximity to Largo Central Park seems another plus. With budget cuts on the rise, the school's auditorium probably will not improve much beyond its antiquated state.

Largo residents and commissioners should cite the successes of Largo's Renaissance Festival and Ulmer Park events. Surrounding communities have overflow crowds at jazz festivals, art shows and outdoor concerts. Even events at Largo Mall prove popular.

How can Largo sit idly by and not take advantage of its central location, accessibility to major highways and a substantial donation left in a will by a generous woman who cared about the future of her city's cultural life? I hope that her farsighted lead will be followed before her offer expires.

Clearly, Largo Central Park could be an economic gem and a source of community enjoyment and pride, with the theater serving as its keystone. Proponents are not asking for a Ruth Eckerd Hall-size structure, just a moderately sized theater that would be closer to visit and less expensive to attend than other Tampa Bay performing arts centers.

Fund-raising and donations are at the heart of the effort, not tax dollars from what I understand from news stories on the subject.

Let's quit stalling. I was 19 when the fairgrounds were bought by the city in 1978. Now as a 33-year-old Largo homeowner, taxpayer and teacher, I certainly would like to see this theater built before I'm too old to do a time-step.

Karl R. Meinecke, Largo

Hard work means nothing is for free

Editor: Re: "A birth and a brighter future" (Jan. 21 article about the Russian woman who came to Clearwater to deliver her baby).

In the 1920s my father and mother left their native Ireland and came to America. They found employment, became U.S. citizens, saved their money and eventually bought a home.

When I was born, they had the money to pay the medical bills. My parents were not looking for a handout. They were very proud and they worked hard for what they had.

Now, in the 1990s, people are coming here seeking "free-"dom _ free maternity care, free housing and anything else they can get for free.

Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers worked hard to make this country such a wonderful place. Let's not give it away.

My dad had a saying that I would like to share with you: "A little hard work never hurt anybody."

Mickey Weber, Safety Harbor

Volunteer program deserves 2nd look

Editor: Thanks so much for reporting the results of the recent survey by Pinellas County schools. And for pointing out that at every level the volunteer program assistant (paid) position should be cut, according to survey results.

Of course, when the survey was passed out, there was not a chance to remind anyone that the volunteer program assistant works at a minimal salary, part time, and without benefits. Nor was there a chance to point out that this assistant oftentimes has the most contact with the community, corporations and seniors who are even in more demand with all the budget problems facing our public schools.

This year I have been able to have a part in building a successful volunteer program in the school where I work. I have been able to make student/volunteer matches, follow through with specific problems, coordinate peer tutoring with another school, and schedule orientation with each volunteer as he or she registers at the school. I also am able to encourage and support our volunteers and the students with whom they work.

I have observed during the past seven years a volunteer program that is an example to the nation. As was reported recently, the Pinellas County school volunteer program was chosen as one of the president's points of light. This is because of the excellent program each school has been able to foster.

I am not writing this pleading for my job, but to inform the community and some school personnel of the great benefits to the school for the small amount of money invested in this program.

If this cut is necessary to maintain the student/teacher ratio or to keep critical art and music programs in place, so be it. However, if it does not, then I would hope the volunteer program assistant position would be evaluated for its merits and kept in place.

Cindy Peabody, volunteer program assistant, Kennedy Middle School, Clearwater

Friends of Library group seeks support

Editor: I enjoyed your column about the Friends of the Largo Library. A Friends group was recently formed in the Seminole area to support and enhance the new Seminole Library under construction on 113th Street. We hope that we, too, can provide our library with funds for equipment and provide our community with cultural and educational programs.

Our first program will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Seminole Community Room in Seminole City Park. Pinellas County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd and her husband, Tom, will present a program on Abraham Lincoln. Appropriately, the following day is Presidents Day.

Dottie Reeder, Seminole City Council member and Library Board chairman, will speak briefly on the new library. Architect drawings and plans will be on display.

Jean L. Thompson, vice president, Friends of the Seminole Library

Pleasure boaters need to pay

Editor: Re: "Clearwater bridge to be raised to 74 feet" (Feb. 1 article about proposed new Clearwater Pass Bridge).

Think of the additional costs to provide tall-masted pleasure boats 9 more feet of clearance! Sailboats with masts that will not clear a 65-foot bridge are not working boats. Do these pleasure-boat owners have a right to insist on a higher bridge? Taxpayers will foot the bill, not the boat owners.

It has never made sense for the bridge crossers to pay for the privilege of driving over the bridge while the pleasure-boat owners go under it for free. If this more costly bridge is built, pleasure-boat owners should be required to ante up each time they go under the bridge!

Dayton W. Hull, Largo