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Practice safe driving, yield to emergency vehicles

As a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, I spend at least one morning a week transporting people to and from medical appointments throughout north Pinellas County.

Every time I am out on our streets I see ambulances and fire trucks, sirens screaming and lights flashing, trying to get through intersections on red. The response from the drivers who have the green light seems to have gotten worse over the past several years. More and more drivers refuse to yield to the emergency vehicle.

A couple of weeks ago I was waiting on Starkey Road for the green light to cross East Bay Drive. I was northbound. An ambulance coming southbound on Starkey used the right turn lane to get by stopped traffic and carefully poked its nose just a hair into East Bay.

That's as far as it got, as it was forced to sit there, lights flashing, siren and horn sounding, while car after car after car just kept on rolling through. I didn't get a count, but I guessed about 15 cars, one after the other, came through before someone stopped, which caused others to do the same. This was mostly westbound traffic. Eastbounders shut down earlier _ except for an 18-wheeler flatbed that barreled down the left lane, causing the ambulance to stop before being able to continue across East Bay. The driver and I made eye contact as he went by me and I just shook my head.

Then last week I was behind a fire truck trying to get onto southbound Hercules Avenue from a westbound side street just north of Drew Street. It sat there with horn, siren and lights all activated and no one stopped. It had to literally force its way into traffic from both directions to get out, as the only way to get the drivers to stop was to give them the choice of hitting the truck or stopping.

In each case, many valuable seconds were lost, and if these scenarios are repeated at each intersection the vehicle needs to go through, it soon adds up to valuable minutes.

I am appalled at what inconsiderate people we have become. These scenarios are repeated every time I see emergency vehicles, including police, trying to get where help is needed.

The solution to the behavior, at least at traffic light-controlled intersections, is the installation of controls for the emergency vehicles to make red lights turn green. The Times recently reported this is in process. I welcome this important move. It will certainly make it safer for emergency vehicle drivers and passengers and should serve to bring response times back in line with standards.

Meanwhile, all you non-yielding drivers out there, clean up your act! It could be you that needs a fast response time some day.

Walter A. Heberlein, Dunedin

Glen Oaks project story was one-sided

Re: Soccer fields to fill fairways, story, March 3.

I was disappointed to see that the story regarding the proposed Glen Oaks stormwater project, a $4.5-million project that will completely change the look and character of a community, was treated so carelessly.

It was my understanding that the press was given special protection in the Constitution so that it was free to fill a valuable role in our American society _ that of public watchdog.

Yet here in our very back yards a government is at best ignoring the concerns of its residents and at worse striving to keep them in the dark. We have proof of misinformation coming from officials during public meetings and we have proof that city officials are disregarding previous commitments to the public.

We also know that the city's planned addition of lighted soccer fields will lower the value of our homes and shatter our quality of life in this beautiful old Clearwater neighborhood.

However, your story ran without one single quote from a resident in our area. The story read like an information piece from the city. Where was the unbiased representation of each side of the issue?

The reporter called me the day before the story ran, and because she could not get in touch with me _ one single resident out of hundreds _ the story ran anyway the next morning. Is that how responsible journalism is done? Did the reporter visit our neighborhood? Did she look to see the area we are discussing and the proximity to our homes? Did she bother to sit down and consider any of the concerns of the community?

I hope that there is a positive end to this unfortunate situation. It is not too late. Report and write a story that covers all sides of the issue, and provide your readers the complete information they need to hold their elected city officials responsible.

Because while the lights, whistles and traffic of these unwanted soccer fields may affect only our neighborhood, everyone is responsible for knowing the actions of elected officials and if their integrity while in office merits re-election.

Brandon Gibbs, Clearwater

Dunedin's baseball site is not fan friendly

If it weren't for the fans, where would baseball be? At least that is what we thought. Baseball is being played for the fans, right?

Well, it doesn't seem that Dunedin feels that way. It is not in any way, shape or form the team (players, coaches, managers, etc.) that is causing the problem. It is the people who run the ball field.

More than $8-million was spent for a new training complex (at the Englebert Complex) where the fans are not welcome. First of all, there is no parking for the fans. They tell you to "park along a road and come in the path." Once you finally find a spot, it is at the softball complex just north of the new fields. Now there is no way to get to the fields or players. We went in the path and were told we were not allowed to come in that way and were asked to leave.

After walking around for awhile and asking questions, you are told that the gate in the back of the softball fields on the north side is open for the public. There are no signs or directions as to which way to go or what gates are open.

Now you are finally into the field area, but don't expect to get close to the players; you are not allowed to go down to the buildings where the players are. Today, players were practicing on field No. 1. There was absolutely no way to get to that field to see them play.

Finally, someone opened the front gate to let in a few fans. We did get to see them for a little while. When it was time to go, the person that opened the gate for us was told under no circumstances was he supposed to open that gate and to lock it and not let anyone else in.

We had no way out of the complex _ the gate was locked, the gate to the path was closed and locked, and we were not allowed near the buildings in order to go to the north gate that was open to fans. How are the fans supposed to see the players practice? And how are the players to know that we care if we cannot let them know that we are there?

And Dunedin wants to know why fans' attendance is dropping and nobody comes to see them play! They do not welcome the fans at all; they do not make it convenient for fans to enjoy the players or the game. A lot of the city's money was spent and you are not able to get any enjoyment from it.

Charlie and Cindy Troutman, Clearwater

Oldsmar council member explains vote

Re: Downtown plan on track despite confusion, story, March 6.

I would like the opportunity to correct an error in the story. The final vote was correct, 4-1. I voted no, except that vote was on the entire Oldsmar downtown plan. I never voted to remove any part of both boulevards from the downtown redevelopment plan.

I have always strongly believed that the residential districts should remain as they are. I fully support the residents' requests to down zone both Park Boulevard and Bayview Boulevard to 7.5 units per acre. Should any resident have any questions, please call me at 855-9547.

Brian S. Michaels, Oldsmar City Council

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