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Time to rethink misguided spending priorities

Is this really government by the people? To the consternation of county residents, the County Commission has approved a $220-million plan to expand the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, just after the airport lost much of its traffic. This is a complete waste of money.

All the while, a plan is still being kicked around to add a tax of 6 cents per gallon on gasoline to raise money for roads in the county. Those with a longer memory will recall that the Penny for Pinellas sales tax was sold to us as being a solution to handle our road issues. And it should have, but the money got squandered on other projects. A full accounting of where the Penny for Pinellas money has ended up is in order (I think the Times ought to take this on).

One will recall also that the Pinellas Trail was sold to us as being a low cost/high reward project when it was pushed through, without adequate debate from both sides. It probably has cost 15 times (at least) what we were told and more money is being earmarked for it as we speak, while a very small percentage of residents use it.

Please, get the priorities straight. We need to spend the money on the airport like we need a hole in the head, and not one more dime should be spent on the trail. Use the $220-million to replace antiquated roads and drawbridges.

Claude Hensley, Clearwater

Don't build Wal-Mart next to river

Re: It's "our community, too,' Wal-Mart manager says, letter, Dec. 3.

In reference to the letter to the editor from Mark Barker, Wal-Mart district manager, concerning the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs, I must respond to several items.

Mr. Barker states that Wal-Mart officials work closely with planning and zoning officials to address traffic issues. He neglected to mention that the Tarpon Springs Planning and Zoning Board rejected this application to build a 205,000-square-foot Wal-Mart on this site.

He says there will be no negative impact on the adjoining Anclote River. Since the parking lot will abut the banks of the river and the adjoining wetlands, anyone can see that this is a false statement.

Finally, he says that new Wal-Marts boost the economies of local communities. A vast number of nationwide studies show that Wal-Mart and other big-box stores drain the tax base. Calculating sales and property taxes is fine, but residents must subtract the ongoing costs of road and sewer maintenance and police services from that total. Additionally, the average Wal-Mart employee costs taxpayers $2,000 per year in subsidized housing and health care, due to low wages.

There are 248 communities in the nation that have beaten a big-box store in their towns or pressured a developer to withdraw, as per www.sprawl-busters.com.

This potential supercenter on the banks of the Anclote River should be rejected by the City of Tarpon Springs. Jan. 10 and Jan. 18 at Tarpon Springs City Hall are the final hearing dates for interested parties.

Jan Fowler, Odessa

Season of hope brings a natural wonder

Sometimes, in the mad rush for material possessions, we forget the spiritual meaning of this season of light and hope. Yesterday, I saw a bald eagle perched in the pine tree at the end of my driveway. I had no idea that such a rare marvel of the wild would ever come so close. Then I realized that it must have been attracted to the empty osprey nest in the tree.

How fortunate to have a notable creature of nature as a neighbor. In our mobile home park, we have 35 species of birds, including more than 200 pelicans. And now we have the most majestic one of all!

I can only hope that our growing, vibrant town of Tarpon Springs will invest as much in the preservation of its spiritual and natural wealth as it does in its material well being.

Leon Kreitman, Tarpon Springs

Road rage, golf carts don't go together

Re: Consider safety when weighing golf cart issue, editorial, Dec. 14.

The logic against designating Crystal Beach and Ozona as golf cart communities escapes me. In your recent editorial you argued that golf carts were inherently dangerous due to their lack of lights and seat belts and slowness on the road.

The editorial also mentioned five people who died or were injured in the last five years on golf carts.

I want to speak to these arguments against golf carts. Let's be clear. We are not talking about golf carts on U.S. 19 or Alt U.S. 19. Crystal Beach and Ozona are communities with limited access, making them easily identifiable as golf cart communities. I know of no cases of road rage within Crystal Beach.

What needs to be explained to me is this: Why are golf carts dangerous to be on the road and, at the same time, bicycles are required to be ridden on the road? Yes, bicycles. Even our children's bicycles are to be ridden on the road and not on the sidewalks. No lights, no seat belts, very slow-moving bicycles.

How many peoples have been killed or injured in the last five years on bicycles? Crystal Beach is full of bicycle riders each day, with no cases of road rage. Responsible bicycle riders and golf cart drivers simply pull off to the side of the road when a car comes up from behind.

Where is the logic? "Yes" for bicycles and "No" for golf carts?

William Gibson, Crystal Beach

Y's outreach is about more than fitness

Re: New YMCA sounds good but isn't needed in Oldsmar, letter, Dec. 27.

The writer who recently opposed the study for a YMCA branch in Oldsmar certainly does not understand the services and community involvement provided by the Y organizations of the Suncoast.

Yes, there are many private fitness centers in the area, but the Y goes beyond weight, swimming and tennis. The youth programs, senior activities and many other social events not offered by private companies are a major part of the Y's standard services.

I do not belong to any area Y, but I thought your readers should research what the Y is all about before making comparisons to health and fitness clubs. The Y is an important and active community member.

W. Bergin, Palm Harbor

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