Earlier this week, Leesburg city commissioners decided to pay a consultant to help create and market an energy and aerospace park on property the city owns at Florida's Turnpike and County Road 470.
Commissioners originally were asked to give Tennessee planner Jerry Bond $8,000 a month, or $96,000 a year, to do a job for which he had no qualifications or track record of success. They balked.
Then, City Manager Jay Evans proposed a second contract, this one for $3,000 a month, or $18,000 for six months, to help with the Florida Energy and Aerospace Technology Park. The pay would jump to the bigger bucks the moment he signed the first company to a contract to come to Leesburg.
Questioned about that provision during Monday's meeting, Evans said it had been removed from the contract and that commissioners didn't have a copy of the most up-to-date proposal. Under the newest one, commissioners would have the option of increasing Bond's pay depending on his performance.
Readers generally have been supportive about a technology park but less than enthusiastic about the aerospace or aviation portion of it. Here are some samples:
I'm a commercial pilot who has been flying for more than 37 years and have been flying out of Leesburg for the past 12.
I totally agree with your piece about paying a consultant to research the possibility of building airplanes here. First of all, with a beautiful, expensive and underused airport already here, why do we need another one?
Second, the concept of the sport pilot license, while admirable, has failed to live up to its potential. Newly built aircraft that come under the "light sport" definition are mostly made in Europe and are very expensive. The cost of aviation fuel is more than $5 a gallon.
Third, the number of licensed pilots, in all categories, has diminished by 25 percent in the past few years, and efforts to reverse this trend are proving difficult.
Fourth, the old saw: "The way to make a small fortune in aviation is to start with a large one" certainly applies here. Aviation manufacturing has always been a boom-and-bust industry. Now it's mostly bust.
Fifth, paying a consultant to chase this pipe dream in this economy is ridiculous. If a manufacturer would really like to produce airplanes in Florida, they wouldn't need a consultant. We have a successful manufacturer in Tavares. They only need to ask them.
I would love to see a thriving aviation community in Leesburg, but this isn't the way to do it.
Why do those in authority keep pushing for more, more, more?
Greater Leesburg has expanded a lot in the past 15 years. It has been a self-sustaining community. It has been balanced.
There are always going to be some people out of work, but there are also jobs available, too. Now Leesburg is planning to invite (probably with tax incentives) another addition of commerce and industry to further flood the overburdened road ways and public support infrastructure.
The plans include one paved and one grass air strip. Why do we need another airport when so much money has been invested in Leesburg International Airport? The landing field would certainly be convenient for the new company CEOs and their private jets.
And guess which runway would be the most popular? The paved runway, which would run east to west to accommodate the most common wind direction.
And where does that put the landing pattern approach path? Directly over the top of the gated communities.
Aircraft are normally required to stay above inhabited areas, but landing and takeoffs would certainly be lower than normal flight rules. I suspect they would be buzzing the quiet adult communities filled with residents who moved here for the peace and quiet.
And finally, from our Front-Porch Philosopher, Nevin Thompson of Groveland, comes some thoughts about a sixth request by an Altamonte Springs couple to withdraw water from their Astatula property and sell it:
This "new" request to tap into water from the Floridan Aquifer to the tune of some 36 million gallons a year, just to put the water into plastic bottles for soccer moms to carry around while jogging behind a baby stroller, is just another symptom of neglecting to look at The Big Picture.
We may think this water is "ours," but this aquifer is huge, beginning in south Georgia and going down the center of our state south of Lake County another 50 miles or so. Millions of people depend on this ancient underground reservoir, a reservoir that is replenished by rainfall.
If someone is not watching the metaphorical aquatic henhouse, and too many foxes are taking our chickens, sooner or later the henhouse is out of chickens, and you and I are just getting nothing but feathers in our water glass.
We all contribute to water use, and the more people we add, the more water is withdrawn, whether it is from the aquifer or our rivers and lakes. There are no "alternative" sources of water to tap.
It is time we quit messing with the small stuff like how many plastic bottles we can fill with our water and look at the big picture nationally and globally. But this Old Guy, a Child of the Great Depression, thinks that will never happen.
Where are the voices statewide and nationally who have clout and who dare to take on the big picture of growth?
Lritchie@tribune.com Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlakeCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times