By Leo Coughlin
What could be more important than public safety in the realm of responsibility of local government?
That is the reason a police force exists, why there is a fire department, explains EMS availability, justifies traffic lights, stop signs, public works crews maintaining roads, and, in lots of cases, why sidewalks exist.
This is about sidewalks.
More accurately, about the lack of sidewalks in a specific location and the noise that is being made about that.
There is a citizen pounding on the door of Largo City Hall trying to get sidewalks on 8th Avenue NW and he is getting more serious about it every day.
Even though he stepped up his e-mails to city officials last week, he says, “I have heard nothing from any city official since we last talked (several weeks ago).”
The response that citizen, Harry Ploger, got was an explanation from Mac Craig, the city manager, who says he recognizes Ploger’s concerns but Craig said the problem goes beyond just putting in sidewalks and involves a “significant drainage project.”
While Ploger recognizes he got an explanation from the city what the guy needs is a solution about a problem that he has been bringing up vividly for more than four years.
Just recently he painted a picture of the inherent danger on 8th Avenue NW, which is a continuation, going east, of Mehlenbacher Road, which forms a border between Belleair Bluffs and Belleair...
In an e-mail to the city Ploger described how he saw a young mother trying to roll her baby carriage with a child in it through the “ruts and weeds along our street.” He said traffic was heavy including a large truck that just missed hitting the woman.
There was some response, he said, from two members of the City Commission, Harriet Crozier and Rodney Woods, who promised action. But, Ploger says, nothing has happened and he counts that as an empty promise.
Meanwhile, the city is planning extensive improvements on Highland Avenue which runs next to City Hall. The project, already stirring up a lot of controversy, is scheduled for early next year and could cost anywhere from $5 million to $8 million, with funds coming from Penny for Pinellas.
The project, to run from East Bay Drive to Belleair Road, includes a pedestrian trail, crosswalk upgrades, drainage improvement, medians and perhaps a rotary at the Rosery Road intersection.
Of course, this is galling to Ploger, who characterizes his neighborhood as a “step child” in Largo.
Also galling is the $10,000 additional a week that goes to support the Cultural Center.
As one observer noted, “It seems rather perverse that the Cultural Center is being supported to the tune of an extra ten thousand dollars a week to please the artsy-craftsy crowd, but a matter of public safety – which 8th Avenue NW clearly is – is ignored.”
Ploger uses the plight of 8th Avenue NW as an argument for electing commissioners by “wards” or districts in the city. If that were the case, commissioners would represent defined parts of the city and would, naturally, fight for their home constituency.
The way it is now, commissioners can ignore a specific area’s problem without paying any political price.
And that seems to be the case now with Harry Ploger’s cries over a dangerous situation. No one is paying a price.
Commissioners representing wards or districts? Maybe not a bad idea.
But that’s a discussion for another day.
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