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  1. Hernando

Hernando letters to the editor for July 12

Published Jul. 8

Re: Gopher tortoise tumult | June 28

How much is too much? That's a critical question not addressed in this article.

Much of the 10 million acres of Florida in conservation has been subjected to prescribed burns, shredding and poisoning to eliminate hardwoods in favor of pine trees. Much of that land also is gopher tortoise ready. That's enough to house more than 40 times the existing number of gopher tortoises in all the public lands of Florida (800,000) or 20 times if the habitat is only deemed to be "acceptable."

Most of those 10 million acres are an integral part of the lucrative timber industry for the state of Florida. All are way under the desirable or even acceptable numbers for gopher tortoise habitation. That doesn't mean that (tortoises) shouldn't be protected, but the vast amounts of acreage being acquired, prepped and maintained can't be justified.

Eglin Air Force Base alone, (pictured in the article) by its own report in the Candidate Conservation Agreement for the Gopher Tortoise dated March 2016, has prepared close to 300,000 acres of its base as prime and ready for gopher tortoises and pine tree harvesting. At the recommended four tortoises per acre, the base alone could house every gopher tortoise on public lands in Florida with room for 400,000 more.

Hernando County has more than 100,000 acres in conservation, much of which is gopher tortoise habitat and nowhere near capacity.

I contend we will not save tax dollars creating more local habitat, because the majority of the relocations, by the county's own admission, must be contracted out to private vendors who have decades of experience and the necessary equipment.

Is it really necessary to burn, shred and poison the last standing mixed hardwood forest among Hernando County Parks? In Lake Townsen, only 180 acres remain of the original 300 shaded acres with horse and hiking trails.

If the sacrifice were necessary to save a species, it would be painful, but acceptable. But it would appear that hardwood forests and the species, including endangered and threatened ones that thrive there, may really be the ones at risk.

Is this voracious appetite for more land denuded of hardwoods really about gopher tortoises or is it the lucrative global timber market?

Shirley Miketinac, Brooksville

Hernando County proposes higher solid waste fee | June 26

Again! Commissioners in Hernando County want you to pay for the impact that new homeowners have created over the past 15 years. Due mostly to an increase of more than 37,000 who did not pay equitable impact fees, the commission wants you to pay $6.35 more annually ($69.40 total assessment) for your solid waste assessment.

According to a recent mailing, this increase is necessary due to operational needs and the construction and maintenance of a new $16 million garbage cell. Given that impact fees are supposed to cover the costs that a new development or a home generates on infrastructure, such as roads, schools, parks, libraries, water and sewer network, and garbage cells, why are taxpayers being asked to pay for them? Needless to say, a new $16 million garbage cell is a huge infrastructure investment that those 37,000 new residents should be paying for rather than adding to our existing residents' tax burden.

Our existing impact fee for an average new single-family home is approximately $4,700, while the fee in our neighboring Pasco County is about $15,000. A detailed study was done a few years ago that indicated our true cost of impact for a new single-family home should be in the $15,000-plus range. And even worse, during the years 2001–2008, the impact fee was approximately $9,200, which was reduced by 50 percent in 2009 to $4,200. So for the past 10 years, builders and developers have been paying far less than half of the fees they should be paying.

Our Hernando County budget has a more than $6 million shortfall this year and commissioners still refuse to consider raising the impact fee. Care to guess who's going to make up the deficit?

The question is why does the commission continually refuse to impose impact fees that cover the true cost of new developments and homes? And why do we continue to elect people to our government who refuse to follow our wishes? This is not an R or D issue, it is one of fairness to every taxpayer in our county.

Perhaps, before we elect someone to serve, we ought to be asking if they will support a new study to determine impact fees and get their promise to enact what the study indicates.

Ken Trufant, Spring Hill

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