A few interesting solutions to the graffiti problem
Dear Editor: Reading your editorial (“The writing’s on the wall, and we want it off,” June 2001), I was reminded of a very effective remedy used by the Italian police a few decades ago. During one of the election campaigns, the Communist Party covered many monuments and historical buildings with red-painted slogans. When caught, the “perps” were painted with their own paint and brush from the top of their hair to the tips of their shoes, front and back!
It apparently helped greatly. I would also sentence people caught in the act or recognized gangs to whom the graffiti belonged to scrub the surfaces clean. In my book, vandalism follows child and animal abuse very closely. Well, I got this off my chest and feel much better.
— Zsolt Koppanyi
District Health Director
Q&A with Jimmie Temple was a nice surprise
Dear Editor: What an absolutely marvelous surprise in the May 2001 edition (“Commissioner’s weddings draw thousands”). On July 29, 1992, my husband and I were married by Jimmie Temple with his lovely wife, Marie, as our witness. We were looking for something unique in regard to location and certainly found that and more in Jimmie Temple. What marvelous people! He performs a ceremony that is memorable and so very individual. He made us feel like we were special and that our ceremony was his No. 1 priority for the day.
My husband and I had our picture taken next to the Vigaro fertilizer display and found that very appropriate — just as every living organism needs food to grow and prosper, you have to feed a marriage. Of course, at the time, we found it only amusing.
Thank you so much for the article. Commissioner Temple is bound to be even busier since the article appeared. We were fortunate to have found him when we did. Here’s to many more good years for Jimmie and Marie.
— Christine Williams
Monroe County, Wis.
Indian Hunter statue is in Ohio, not Illinois
Dear Editor: I am assistant director of administration for Urbana, Ohio, as well as the author and administrator of the SOS! grant that conserved “The Indian Hunter.” It was pleasing to see the work get exposure in the article, “Monumental undertakings” (May 2001); however, there is misinformation in the article. The statue is at Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana, Ohio, not Illinois. Additionally, Champaign County had nothing to do with the statue. Urbana wrote and administered the grant and conserved the statue.
— Joseph Smith
Infrastructure and Ronald Reagan
Dear Editor: Regarding your May 2001 Editor’s Viewpoint (“It’s Public Works Week. Rebuild a bridge.”):
The school system is an example of not getting what you pay for. Neither more government control nor more taxpayer funding will solve the infrastructure blues. But as long as there is a socialist breathing, there will be a new program to separate a fool from his money.
There is not anything in Saline County named after Ronald Reagan.
We do have a creek in this county that could have been named for another president, who, along with his wife, has selective memory loss. I’ve heard that the Clintons used “I don’t know” and “I don’t recall” more times than Ronald Reagan did in his latter years. The creek, incidentally, is Turkey Creek.
— Rolly Church
Nebraska Civic Digest
Billboard amortization ordinance upheld
Dear Editor: Thank you for your outstanding article on billboard proliferation (“Sign language,” April 2001). However, it includes one bit of information that is out of date. In July 2000, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously reversed the finding of the Court of Appeals and upheld the constitutionality of East Lansing’s amortization ordinance.
Despite the many court decisions stating conclusively that amortization is a legal, constitutional form of compensation for billboard removal, the industry continues to use its financial clout to secure special favors from legislators. This year alone, in Arkansas, Florida, Connecticut and Nevada, legislators with direct financial ties to the industry — over and above campaign contributions — have introduced bills making it easier for the industry to put billboards up and harder for communities to get them down.
More than 700 communities nationwide have taken control of their scenery by prohibiting new billboards, and many more are trying to do so. Despite the inexorable pressures of the industry, we hope many more will join them.
— Tom Pelikan
Director of Policy
Insect control letter made a good point
Dear Editor: While my area of oversight does not include insect control, I read with some interest the letter regarding the use of swallows and bats for mosquito control (Readers’ Forum, April 2001). As an avid gardener, I understand the use of natural predators to control insect pests — e.g., ladybugs for aphids — and have witnessed first-hand the value of bats for mosquito control.
In northwest Arkansas and southwestern Missouri, there are literally thousands of miles of natural caverns that are home to millions of bats. You can spend all summer in these areas and hardly ever be bothered by mosquitoes. Bats, and to a lesser degree, swallows and martins, help keep those pests under control and rarely, if ever, bother humans. Can the same be said for chemical treatments?
— Pamela Robbins
Town’s savings may not have reflected all costs
Dear Editor: As a consulting engineer who has served several municipalities as their city engineer, I read with interest the article in March 2001 about the force account work undertaken by Mansfield, Mass. (“Town arrests gas migration”). That article reported savings of approximately 50 percent by using city equipment and employees instead of contracting for the design and construction of the improvements.
Questions always arise when reading a similar claim of large savings, including “Was the true cost of the time, materials, equipment and associated project management expenses included in the claimed cost of the project?”
For example, were the project management costs associated with preparation of the design, estimates and any required applications included in the project costs? Similarly, were all costs associated with labor, including benefits such as vacation, sick leave, holidays, health insurance, retirement, general liability insurance and other direct costs of labor included in the labor calculations? Was the cost of equipment, including capital cost and the cost of fuel, lubricants, maintenance and repair parts included in the equipment costs?
It has been my experience that, when towns claim similar savings, they often apply only the direct hourly wages of the employees involved and make no provisions for supervisory or administrative costs, nor other direct or indirect overhead factors, which all firms in the private sector must include.
Another question: Why are city employees and equipment available to undertake such a large project? In other words, is the city overstaffed?
It was also interesting to note that the photograph clearly shows a number of safety violations, many of which likely are violations of applicable OSHA regulations and some of which are violations of common sense construction site safety. Examples include:
workers on the project without hard hats;
workers standing in dangerous positions (one on the blind side of the backhoe, one behind a dump truck);
an unshored and inadequately sloped truck;
piles of aggregate at the top edge of the trench;
workers in soft shoes rather than steel-toed boots;
undercut of existing pavement, which could lead to sudden trench failure; and
a worker’s hand resting on the tracks of the backhoe, which could result in injury were the backhoe unexpectedly moved.
By claiming cost savings while ignoring safety precautions that would add to the costs of construction, the credibility of the savings comes into question even more.
— Ben Carr
Carr & Associates Engineers
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