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Variations in tree service prices are not always gouging

Editor: I can no longer read about and hear about, in Citrus and other counties, stories of price gouging in the tree industry without putting in my 2 cents. I feel a responsibility to defend my reputable and ethical colleagues in this industry.

I'm sure there will always be the man with the pickup truck and a chain saw that has come from miles away and locally who will attempt to over-charge at these disaster times. But it's you as the property owner who makes that decision on whether that person is competent to do the job.

In our industry there are no set standards for pricing. A qualified service or individual such a certified arborist can and will charge anywhere from $45 to $250 per hour for their services depending on the applications and procedures applied to the job.

I also know that in 1999 the logging and tree industry was ranked as being number two of the 10 most dangerous (death-related) jobs (quoted from Parade magazine). We all know that firefighters and law enforcement personnel risk their lives every day, but the tree industry has a higher risk.

Now compound that with doing the most dangerous type of tree work (storm damage). One small limb under pressure and cut at the wrong time in the wrong place can and will spear a person. This type of work can kill you in the blink of an eye.

Put that large fractured tree on a roof that you can hardly stand on and make those cuts like you're taking apart a jigsaw puzzle without doing any further damage to the roof or the air-conditioner on the ground right under it. There are probably only a handful of services in the Citrus County area that can do this type of work without further damage or injury.

It is my opinion that you as the property owner have no right to determine the cost or wages required to do these jobs properly. You have no idea the cost of payroll, worker's compensation, liability insurance, fuel consumption, equipment costs and equipment maintenance services, not to mention the costs of maintaining our certification (obtaining Continuing Educational Units) through the International Society of Arboriculture.

The job on your property may only take six hours to complete; however, there are other factors to consider, such as trips to the dump or landfill, chain saw maintenance when returned to the yard, truck repairs, etc. The job is not done when we leave your property.

There are no set standards in our industry carved in "wood" for job cost or pay rates. Feel free to contact or visit the Web site of the International Society of Arboriculture, Florida Chapter at www.floridaisa.org/ on how to properly choose a qualified tree care service and much more information related to the tree care industry.

Michael Harnden, Floral City

Budget preparers should

scrutinize it carefully

Editor: Like many of my generation I am a "meat and potato" kind of guy.

Not that I don't appreciate or enjoy the more exotic (and expensive) meals. It's just that having grown up in lean times has left its imprint and made me financially cautious.

The question is: If you blow the budget on frills and superfluities, how do you meet basic needs? The answer is, of course, you get more money.

So which is the driving entity? Is more money needed because of the basics, or because of the frills?

Fast forward to the Citrus County budget and realize that about a third of the revenue needed to support that budget comes from one source, Progress Energy.

And yet with that massive commercial aid, our taxes are no lower than a comparable county without that advantage. The increased revenue has been used to fund additional programs rather than reduce taxes.

Imagine the loss of that revenue. In order to support the budget as it has evolved, a massive tax increase would be necessary. If you want to see regional loss of economic value, try that on for size.

I mention all this to prompt those responsible for budget preparation and passage to scrutinize it realistically, realizing that continuing budget increases and affordability can soon part company.

Lawrence Dombrowski, Beverly Hills

Plaintiffs' victory

deserves our gratitude

Editor: On behalf of the Executive Committee of COST (Citizens Opposed to the Suncoast Tollway Inc.), I am expressing our sincere thanks to the plaintiffs, Mrs. Teddi Bierly and Mr. Robert Roscow, who filed the lawsuit against Jose Abreu as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Early in August the judge's decision was announced: The plaintiffs WON the case!

To no avail, since January 2003, many of us had voiced our objections time and time again to FDOT/Turnpike Enterprise that the meetings of the Environmental Resource and Regulatory Agency Group (ERRAG) were being held without any member of the public being allowed to attend.

The ERRAG was/is part of the PD&E (Project Development and Environment) study for the proposed extension of the Suncoast Tollway through Citrus County.

It is ONLY because Robert Roscow and Teddi Bierly brought this lawsuit that the secret meetings have been stopped. Indeed, the meetings have been deemed to be in violation of the Sunshine Law.

We owe to these two dedicated people a huge debt of gratitude. Their concern for the quality of our drinking water and the preservation of our wildlife habitat and our quality of life has helped to ensure that these precious, irreplaceable values will not be forever destroyed. Our gratitude for their selflessness in protecting all of Citrus County and its residents is a debt we can only repay by supporting their efforts and their values.

Janet Masaoy, chairman Citizens Opposed to the Suncoast Tollway Inc.

Progress Energy used

storm to its benefit

Editor: We live in Marion County just across the Withlacoochee River from Citrus County, and we were without electricity for six days. I don't need to repeat what writer Frank B. Hill of Homosassa wrote regarding the losses and hardships during this time. I will add that in our immediate neighborhood many out-of-state electrical crews were working diligently to replace and update large feeder lines and poles that were not damaged during the storm.

The equipment crosses the river into Citrus County. These same poles and lines were not scheduled for replacement for another four to five years. Progress Energy took the opportunity to use free labor and storm money to do maintenance work that would normally have been done by them had they not laid off some 30 percent of their union laborers.

We were deliberately kept without power, as I am sure some Citrus County residents were, so this update work could be done at the expense of repairing and restoring power to customers. When the work was done in my neighbor's yard, the crew supervisor stated that electricity was kept off intentionally, then proceeded to turn our power back on.

If it was truly repair and restoration that kept us in the dark for six days, I would not be so critical of Progress Energy. But the management of this company took advantage of its customers, the system and the out-of-state workers at a time when there was a greater need.

Ina Robinson, Dunnellon

Letter writer was right

about Progress Energy

Editor: This is a reply to Frank B. Hill's letter concerning Progress Energy. He hit the nail on the head.

What happens if we really get a storm? Our electricity suppliers are quick to blame everyone else and now want to raise our rates. Why can't they maintain our services as we maintain their payments?

Thanks, Frank. We all agree.

Mary Jane and Michael Abshier, Beverly Hills

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