On Monday, November 17, a
presentation was given by Steve Spratt, Pinellas County Administrator, to
the Safety Harbor City Council, an overflow crowd of concerned and mostly
unhappy citizens (at least as evidenced by the disbelief, grumbling and
mutterings of B.S. in the seats around me) and press and TV media (who
left before any dissent was expressed), We were subjected to more spin
than our washing machine, and the dryer. Mayor Pam Corbino expressed
concern about altitude and was told that that could be addressed with the
FAA. That isn't going to happen. The landing procedures are based on
safety protocol. Those planes aren't going to fly high over Safety Harbor
and then dive to a landing. Safety is the big concern, not noise.
We were told about the number of
operations (takeoffs and landings) per year and how the number is not that
far below Tampa International's. We weren't told that most of these are
small, private planes which are relatively quiet. We were told that some
increase in traffic was anticipated due to expansion, but we weren't told
that most of these would be large noisy jets carrying cargo and
international tour groups that PIE hopes to attract. We were told that the
decibel levels would conform to present standards and even new lower
standards. Not enough emphasis was placed on the fact that these levels
are based on an average and over a year. In other words, if there is 8
hours of 120 decibel levels, followed by 8 hours of nothing, that the
average of 60 decibels would be under the allowed 65 levels. The
increased heavy jet traffic will not raise the average levels to the
unacceptable, it will just make it very uncomfortable and disturbing and
lower the quality of life and property values, but what the heck, it still
meets or beats the standards. It doesn't take all that long for a plane to
go over and there is a relatively long time before another. It' just that
while the plane is going over that it's noisy and disturbing.
We were told about all the safety
regulations being complied with around the ends of the runways. That and
the tracking facilities are just eye-wash and aren't germane to the
question. But, they take up meeting time and look good. We weren't told
about where the traffic will go if the Albert Whitted Airport in St.
Petersburg will go if it is shut down. We were told that the GPS system
may be used in the future to augment or replace the ILS Instrument Landing
System) landing system now in use so the flights might be kept over the
water and away from direct flight over Safety Harbor, but we weren't told
that that would run them over Oldsmar, where I live. I didn't buy a home
directly under the flight path. I don't appreciate the flight path being
moved over me. I've not heard much said about the new ILS being installed
for traffic approaching from the south (right now the only system is on
the north end of the runway designated as 17L). I don't think that the
people on the south end of the airport realize what will happen when the
traffic can approach the airport over them.
At present, all the traffic on
instrument landing approaches (night or bad weather) goes over Safety
Harbor, because that is the only direction that the system provides for.
That new approach will shake some buildings and disturb some sleep for
previously undisturbed people. But it will also be too late for those
people to do anything about it. Lastly, amazingly, Mr. Spratt stated that
a result of all the citizen concern, that Pinellas County and the Airport
Authority have initiated a feasibility study. Imagine, after jumping into
a project that started at about $12 to $17 million and has jumped to about
$233 million or so, they are going to do a feasibility study. Can you
imagine any business that would get the cart before the horse like that.
But, not to worry, it's not real money, it's only tax dollars.
Two citizens of Safety Harbor gave
short, well researched papers exposing many of the flaws, broken promises,
lies, spin and absurdities of the whole concept and presentation. It was
like pouring water on a duck's back. Steve Spratt came back up to the
microphone and went on as if nothing happened. The only move I've seen
the BOCC make recently other than to bulldoze straight ahead was to fire
Ava VanNahmen for getting in their way. It's damn the torpedoes, full
speed ahead. Mayor Corbino and the others against this expansion are
right. We don't need it.