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Bring back the Citrus Fire Prevention Bureau

Editor: Here we go again, folks. Same song, another dance: less services, more taxes.

Citrus County residents should be up in arms over the recent harassment directed toward the Fire Prevention Bureau. The county administrator has for the past months picked at Fire Prevention until it no longer resembles a department whose record spoke for itself with eloquence and conviction ratios many times better than that of the State Fire Marshal.

Commissioner Gary Bartell is quoted saying, "To me, it's a natural line of duty for an investigative department to be under a law enforcement office," and adds, "I fully support that concept." Wake up, Bartell! It was County Administrator Tony Shoemaker who removed the law enforcement authority from the department months ago, and if memory is correct it was because Shoemaker (or someone) had not covered the department with liability insurance. Are we to expect this same law enforcement jurisdiction to apply to hazardous materials disposal and animal control?

Commissioner Bartell should realize that because of his hasty endorsement of Shoemaker's actions, questions arise. First, the creation or abolition of a department should be a "policy decision" made at public meetings by the commissioners and providing for public comment. If this was ever done, I missed it.

Second, if Shoemaker's action had the approval of the commissioners via verbal or other non-public form of communication, it seems to skirt the Florida Sunshine Law.

Third, considering that a member of the Fire Prevention staff challenged Bartell for election last November: Although it may not be the case, it gives the illusion of cheap political revenge, which is not good for the system, the county's image, or morale of other county employees.

I urge residents to ask their commissioners, with proper liability insurance coverage, to return a complete Fire Prevention Bureau to serve Citrus County. Anything less will be a waste of many dollars' worth of training, equipment and experience, and could well result in higher fire insurance rates for homeowners and businesses.

It's my opinion that Bartell's and Shoemaker's service in this case falls flat. Their finesse, expertise and professionalism is easily exceeded by a brood sow's knowledge of birth control and Planned Parenthood.

Earnest Olsen

Crystal River

Firing of paramedic "stinks'

Editor: I read with great interest the June 14 editorial "Public should know why paramedic was fired."

First, it is indeed gratifying to see the St. Petersburg Times rattle the cage on an issue that stinks from hell to high heaven. There is not an area of this privatization issue of the Citrus County emergency medical services that smells kosher, from the onset to the firing of Kevin Mulligan.

Mulligan, from the very beginning of the privatization of our EMS, made himself a target, not only of the powers that be of the county, but also of the private company that assumed the responsibility of our EMS.

Mulligan, with the support of most if not all his co-workers, and the support of more than 5,000 Citrus County taxpayers, publicly and privately fought for a department of this county that had the confidence of the public, was staffed by professionals, and is an important aspect of the health, safety and welfare for the citizens of this county.

Mulligan also was fighting for the careers and futures of himself and his co-workers. Can we fault a man for that? Can we target a man for that? You can bet the answer to that question is a resounding, "Yes."

I have known Mulligan for about 15 years. There is no doubt in my mind that his concern was for the public that he and his co-workers served so well in this county over the years. Mulligan now has seen and felt history repeat itself. If he reads this letter, he will know of what I speak.

I feel very strongly that four county commissioners and staff could care less about employees now that a private company has assumed their responsibility. They can stand on their political soap boxes all they want and declare publicly that what they did was best for the residents of this county. To that I say, "Bull." There are elements of this county commission who are tossing aside their responsibility .

In my humble opinion, the fact that paramedics went union was not a hard pill for the commissioners to digest. What stuck in their craw was a federal wage and hour lawsuit instigated by an ex-employee that the county was found guilty of violating. I might add that County Administrator Tony Shoemaker, in consort with the legal department of this county, are not innocent in this bloody mess.

In closing, I wish to state that Florida Regional Services remind me of buzzards; they circle their prey until the right time and then land and do their thing. In fact, I hear that at this moment they are circling over the Ocala area.

As to the question asked by the Times pertaining to the public's right to know why Mulligan was fired, in fairness and ethically it would seem correct. But fairness and ethics were never components of this issue. Mulligan was a target, he became a marked man from the day he stood up and bucked the system.

I wish you God's speed, Kevin Mulligan, and I salute you.

Michael Pitts

Inverness

Good news, bad news on dam

Editor: Years ago a famous radio commentator would start his broadcast with the words, "There is good news in the news tonight." I wish I could say the same today. To all of you who have hoped and prayed and worked to restore the Wysong Dam, there is some good news, but there also is some bad news to report.

The good news is that after many delays and rejections by the Southwest Florida Management District a presentation was made June 13 to the board by Chester Bradshaw. He proposed restoring the wetlands in the Withlacoochee River basin. One of the key proposals is to restore the Wysong Dam.

Bradshaw presented a collection of information and facts that were previously ignored by Swiftmud and orchestrated under the "Withlacoochee River Advisory Group" and also by Swiftmud staff.

Bradshaw made an excellent presentation in the short time he was allowed to speak, and the facts presented appeared to make some impression on the board members. Following Bradshaw's presentation there were questions asked by the board and they were satisfactorily answered by Bradshaw. At the end of the board's questioning there was a rather crude and rude attempt to offset Bradshaw's presentation by board member Jack Vogel.

Vogel questioned Bradshaw's "credentials," and stated that "In (his) opinion, Bradshaw has no credibility." In other words, he did not care what facts Bradshaw presented; his mind was made up to reject anything Bradshaw presented.

This kind of attitude from a board member who is appointed to represent the public and who should have an open mind is reprehensible. It is the kind of attitude that has characterized the Swiftmud bureaucracy in dealing with the public. It is another example of misuse of trust and power at its worst.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news.

No action was taken by the board. The facts assembled by Bradshaw are to be turned over to the Swiftmud staff for another study and then they are to present their conclusions to the board. I would not make any bets for a favorable recommendation from the Swiftmud staff.

There were other presentations to the board that had merit. One of the speakers from the audience, Nancy Argenczinano, suggested using the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate Bradshaw's proposals and give an unbiased report on the entire subject. This is an excellent suggestion and the board should accept it. However, based on previous experience, the board will not act favorably.

There are many of you out there who will say, "What's the use? You can't fight the system." Don't believe that. You can fight the system if you are right and have the resolve. History teaches us that eventually the truth does win, and oppressive misuse of power carries the seed of its own destruction.

Vincent Vovicka

Lake Panasoffkee

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