Letters to the Editor Oct. 25, 2018

Published on: October 25, 2018


How our students will benefit from the education referendum

Dear Editor,

There are trash cans placed strategically on our gymnasium floor. They’re not there for trash. They catch rain that leaks through our aging roof. This accelerates the deterioration of our floor, which desperately needs to be refinished so our students don’t slip and fall while playing sports. The ancient bleachers have no railings.

Our antiquated public address system — crucial in an emergency — can’t be heard in certain parts of the building, and resetting the fire alarm system takes forever when it goes off.

These are the types of issues that would be fixed with the passage of the half-penny sales tax referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. It is the final item on a long ballot, so I’ll ask you to please start at the end and put our students first. As principal at East Bay High School, I see the impact of deficiencies in our buildings. Vital maintenance, along with upgrading classroom technology and safety equipment, are necessary to create the right learning environment.

We know our community supports our schools. Yet, inadequate state funding for facilities has left us in a bind. Like East Bay, many of our schools are more than 45 years old. The state does not fund our buildings based on need or on a schedule for replacements and upgrades, so as our schools age, the need increases, but the funding does not.

By investing in our schools we all benefit. East Bay would fix its air conditioning and gym floor, but the entire South Shore community would also benefit from rising property values and a healthy economy. Students in our classrooms today will be the adults seeing you at your doctor’s office or fixing your car tomorrow.

A typical family would spend $63 a year more in sales tax to make all these improvements. The money goes to specific building projects, not salaries, and to make sure it’s spent as promised, a prestigious unpaid Citizen Oversight Committee has been named, including Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and former Superintendent and Elections Supervisor Earl Lennard of Riverview.

If my students can feel safe in the gym, if teachers can teach in air-conditioned classrooms, and if we can start using our trash cans for garbage instead of rain, I know our students and staff will be very thankful to our community.

Maria Gsell

Principal, East Bay High


Concerns about growth seem ignored by county

Dear Editor,

First, let me thank you for publishing, and Seri Lucas for writing an excellent letter to the editor in last week’s Observer News.

My wife and I have lived in Sun City Center for almost 15 years. When we first arrived we attended many of the county’s feel-good meetings to address growth. It didn’t take long to realize we were naïve in believing that residents’ input was welcomed, really mattered, or would lead to controlled growth.

I recall attending meetings where Newland Communities, the developers of Waterset, promised grand improvements to Big Bend Road and I-75 ramps. Well, we can see that never happened, because the county commissioners didn’t hold the developer to their promises.

As Ms. Lucas pointed out, the commissioners continue with the same old excuses, including “our hands are tied.” Sorry, but that doesn’t hold water. I’ve lived — and I suspect most have as well — where the local government really planned to controlled (sic) growth. If the roads, schools, utilities and emergency services couldn’t meet the current needs then a moratorium was placed on the new development.

If you need to be insulted even more, the Hillsborough County Commissioners would like you to pay 1.5 percent more in sales taxes to improve roads and schools, which they have allowed to fail.

The question we should all be asking is, “Who is in charge of Hillsborough County?”

Henry Niemczyk, Sun City Center 


Thank you, Observer News

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your lead article last week, “Old plumbing nourishes new scientists,” which detailed the story behind the nearly $9,000 contribution to the Lennard High School Robotics Club by the Valencia Lakes community. 

Hillsborough County has embarked on an 8-year, $10 million program to replace all residential above-the-ground backflow prevention valves. The county has an excellent website describing their program. (Google: “Hillsborough County Residential Backflow Upgrade Program.”)

The old valves belong to the homeowners. Valencia Lakes residents collected the valves and sold them as scrap to Edge Metals Recycling in return for the money that was given to the Robotics Club. There are tens-of-thousands of scrap valves that will become available to homeowners which, through their communities and HOAs, can be converted into cash and donated to worthy causes, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs at our local schools. 

The county’s website has a list in order of the communities scheduled to have their valves replaced. It also has contact information.  It would greatly benefit the young people of our area if each community or HOA getting valve upgrades appointed an individual to coordinate with the county and the county’s contracted plumber in order to oversee the collection of the old valves and their sale to a metal recycler.

My great thanks to The Observer News who was the major influence in bringing the backflow valve problem to the attention of the bureaucrats starting back in 2007 with hard-hitting investigative reports. This resulted in needed changes to state and local laws, which resulted in safer drinking water and a savings of millions of dollars for Florida residents. And now, it presents us with the wonderful opportunity to directly help our young people.

Again, thank you Observer News for making all of this possible.

David Brown

Citizen Representative

Hillsborough County Backflow Prevention Board