I want to compliment you on your A-section editorial June 8, Bay Plaza folly. It is too bad your editorial staff at the Clearwater Times doesn't have your foresight, or maybe it is hindsight.
I have been a Clearwater watchdog for five years with an eye on the prudent use of the taxpayer's dollar. Clearwater already has one boondoggle similar to Bay Plaza, only on a much smaller scale. I'm referring to the East End project.
The city over a period of five or six years acquired land around the City Hall Annex at Cleveland Street and Missouri Avenue. It paid as much as $18 per square foot for some parcels and has approximately 15 acres including the annex at a total cost exceeding $4-million.
This has cost the taxpayers approximately $400,000 a year in lost interest and taxes over the last five years. The city has been attempting to market this property for development for at least four years without success. Now the Community Redevelopment Agency has hired consultants who have proposed a 15- to 20-year redevelopment plan for the downtown core that will cost between $200-million and $300-million, in my estimation. Key elements include a 19-acre downtown lake with retail or residential units around it, a two-level underground parking structure north of the Harborview Center, a new library on the lake and a four-lane fixed bridge to Clearwater Beach from the Drew Street and Osceola Avenue intersection.
The proposed Capital Improvement Program for 1995-96 through 2000-2001 includes $23.5-million bonds for the bridge in 1995-96 and 1996-97. This will cost taxpayers $1.5-million in debt service for each year over the next 20 years.
The proposed downtown lake championed by the Clearwater Times will cost about $25-million, for another $1.5-million per year of debt service over the next 20 years.
Even if we eliminate or postpone either the lake or the bridge, it is projected to cost the taxpayers in excess of a 25 percent increase over the next two years. I say enough is enough.
Robert W. Wright
Give downtown a try
The recent letter from Robert Snow criticizing Clearwater Assistant City Manager Bill Baker's inventive idea for a downtown lake exemplifies the trouble we face in our city.
Mr. Snow states that beautiful Coachman Park is an expensive, unused park. Has he been to any of the many concerts the Parks and Recreation Department sponsors at the park when thousands turn out for an enjoyable evening of music and fun?
He also criticizes the bureaucrats who put parking meters downtown. Sorry, Mr. Snow, but those same bureaucrats removed the downtown parking meters some time ago. When did he last spend time downtown?
The problem is not "visionary" plans from City Hall. The problem is not enough people giving downtown Clearwater a chance to prove what it can be. Instead of heading for the mall, Mr. Snow should give downtown merchants a chance. He might like it and come back!
As for the downtown lake, if given a fair chance, it can work without soaking the taxpayers.
Donald R. Ford
Tune in to cable alternatives
The June 15 column by Jacquin Sanders about Vision Cable (Time Warner) was right on target. We have had trouble virtually every Saturday. Our favorite programs are on WEDU-Ch. 3, particularly Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances at 8 and 8:30 p.m.
More Saturdays than not, we get lines in the picture and interruptions. We have one TV that is on an antenna and there is usually a clear picture on that. This has to indicate that Vision Cable (Time Warner) is not tending the store. Like Mr. Sanders, we have attempted to alert the cable company, but as he suggests, there is nobody in charge on the weekend.
If there were an alternative cable choice, Time Warner would quickly go to the bottom of my list. Besides, I resent giving money to the company that publishes such disgusting music and then stands up to defend it. They are a bunch of greedy money-seekers.
Let's urge Pinellas County to seek an alternative cable hookup.
Earl E. Ditmars
Lobbying made a difference
I wish to thank the hundreds of people from Tarpon Springs and the surrounding communities for taking the time to contact the governor's office in support of Line Item 2096A, Historic Preservation Grants-in-Aid Special Category Projects, in the 1995-96 state budget.
The entire $11,994,001 line item has been approved, including the city of Tarpon Springs' $178,026 project for restoring the exterior of City Hall (the old Tarpon Springs High School).
More than 1,000 people from around the state called the governor's office June 16, the last day for the governor to sign the budget. The overwhelming statewide support most certainly helped the approval of this line item, which will fund 45 major historic restoration projects throughout the state.
What a tribute to Florida's sesquicentennial!
Community Affairs administrator