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Florida doesn't protect retirees from rip-offs

Editor: Recently we moved to the state of Florida for our retirement and a disability I have. Well, they call this the retirement state and have good laws to protect the elderly and disabled, but all that we have is problem after problem with your contractors. I realize you have a few honest ones here but the bad outnumber the good and it seems that no one cares except at election time.

First we contracted to put in a pool. They came out and assured us they would have the pool in within 15 working days, weather permitting. We signed a contract in April 1996 for $23,000 and here it is October 1997 and all we have is a pool that was not backfilled right and settled in the middle and is sagging on both ends. This can be proved by two different contractors. Now it is flaking in the bottom, and pretty soon 14,000 gallons of water will come flowing out.

We contacted Channel 28 news and they did a story on their 11 p.m. news with the pool people promising us the world and hardly did anything but re-tile the water line, and now it looks like a roller coaster. They did offer us a free waterfall for the end of the pool, so they must think we are opening an amusement park. We filed a complaint with the Pasco County Consumer Complaint Division and they acted promptly, sending out two people from their investigation department. They made their report on this situation and referred it to the Pasco County License Division, which says we have to sue to get something done. What happened to your laws protecting the elderly and disabled against people like this who prey on us?

Now the kicker: We go to the village newspaper to find a contractor to do some remodeling for us. We look under the section for contractors because the newspaper says support our supporters because they support us.

Well, we find one who says he is bonded, licensed and insured, so we sign a contract for him to remodel two baths, kitchen and Florida room. The price was $13,000 with us buying some of the material. He gave us a business card with all kinds of numbers saying he was bonded, insured and a contractor with a license.

We took him at his word and signed a contract. He would show up every day, but it seemed he always wanted a check every other day for something. We would do as he asked and give him one. Well, he finished his job, and at the very first rain, water came pouring under the walls of our new Florida room.

We contacted him about the situation, and also, the new roof he put on the new room was leaking. He came out and said the leak was from the roof and wanted $600 to fix that. Well, I had had enough and contacted the Pasco County Consumer Affairs Division.

They investigated and found out he had no license of any kind and the only license he had ever had was for a painter and that expired in 1996. They referred the case to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for investigation.

I was told that he can only be charged with a misdemeanor and it would result with a slap on the wrist and a fine. What happens to the man who has lost all his money and can't afford to hire a lawyer? Do you look for a place that has buckets and mops for sale while this man continues with his business as usual?

Where I came from this was called fraud and deceptive practice and false advertising not to mention the insurance claim he faxed from his house to my insurance company for water damage which should be wire fraud.

Jerry F. Leach, Holiday

Rain trees offer residents

a colorful glimpse of autumn

Editor: Floridians don't have to travel to the Great Smokies to view the changing of the leaves. In Florida we can boast about our own fall colors. Before you start to snicker, have you noticed the riot of color that is being displayed by our rain trees? Their yellow, pink and orange foliage almost rivals the flaming colors of our Northern maples. If you don't have a rain tree on your property, it is hoped that you are enjoying your neighbor's tree. Here in some areas they are quite prolific, and they are a delight to the eyes.

Now a word about rain trees. There are many varieties and their scientific names are tongue-twisters. It is not certain whether the nurseries would know what you are inquiring about _ but then again, maybe not. Just ask about a rain tree. They generally blossom in October and their feathery clusters are long lasting. They require no special care. If planted on the east and west side of your home, they provide leafy shade in the hot summer days and allow the sun to filter through the winter months after they shed their leaves. There are pros and cons as to whether to plant any tree but when one such as this can offer so much beauty, it is a worthwhile effort. Be happy with your rain tree.

Florence Hammond, New Port Richey

It's time for legislators

to stand up for children

Editor: This past Friday, 50 teachers at Zephyrhills High School signed a petition supporting Gov. Lawton Chiles' efforts to get legislators to find a solution to school overcrowding.

I am a third year teacher at ZHS who retired from law enforcement after 25 years. We have a great school with an overcrowding problem that I perceive to be very dangerous for obvious reasons. Our school was built in 1975 for 1,150 students, but today ZHS numbers 1,670. My colleagues and I welcome all politicians to visit our school before it starts any morning to see students sitting five or six deep on the Commons floor and then at lunch time to witness the long lines waiting to eat.

It was only a few years ago when our Legislature took a bold stand on keeping prisoners where they belong. They passed a law where convicted criminals had to do 85 percent of their sentence and appropriated millions of dollars for new prisons. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's about time for these same men and women to stand up for our young people.

I am all for putting criminals in jail, but how do we explain spending $25,000 to $30,000 a year to keep a thief, a burglar, a robber, a sex offender or murderer in prison and only spend about $3,500 to educate one of our kids? Statistics show that about 70 percent of our prison populations is illiterate and juvenile crime is not slowing down. People are not born to be criminals! Resolve the problem of overcrowding and help our school systems provide the means for our children to become productive citizens.

Manny Funes, Zephyrhills

Smashing mailboxes

isn't worth penalty

Editor: I wonder if the children and parents realize what the penalty for mailbox vandalism is.

Each year I either replace or repair our mailbox.

Jack Loe, Hudson

Pitch in and help

put on Hudson Seafest

Editor: Isn't it great that a group of volunteers are going to give west Pasco the Hudson Seafest again?

For years, this hard-working group of people have had this annual fund-raiser and the results of it are clearly evident in Hudson. I understand that, in addition to the sidewalks for which they are responsible, they give scholarships and help youth activities in the area.

From the signs I see around, this event is going to be held at the old Suprex Market on Clark Street. Let's all get together and help them.

Mark Nienhueser, Hudson

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