Suzetter Porter sig

I enjoy watching HGTV, and I’ve noticed that many home remodeling projects focus on the kitchen, living room, dining room and master bedroom with attached bathroom (ensuite).

The kitchen appliances are top-of-the line, and we all know that equals lots of cash. The finishes in general scream expensive. When the project is done, every penny of the remodeling budget is spent. I often wonder what happens in the other bedrooms, bathrooms and the rest of the house. Sometimes, the outside is sorely lacking in curb appeal.

And how many times have you heard the homeowners whine if any of the money has to go to fix the electrical, plumbing, air conditioning or anything else that is critical, but not seen? Yep, it’s as if the contractor is stealing from them.

I often think I’m glad that’s not my house, although I would love to be able to afford a remodel. But I don’t want to go from my beautifully remodeled kitchen to my untouched bathroom, which will no doubt look even shoddier by comparison.

I can’t help but think it would be better to spend that $100,000 budget on improvements for the entire house instead of just some parts. Maybe not go for the most expensive kitchen appliances and finishes, but pick something of good quality and spread that money around.

And I don’t want a fancy house that has faulty electrical work or plumbing or an air conditioning system that is about to fail. Safety first and fancy last would be my motto. Make sure everything is in good repair. I would invest part of my budget on the best insulation and energy-efficient everything to cut my utility bills.

I sometimes watch “My Lottery Dream Home” with families buying a new house that is double or triple the size of where they are currently living, and oftentimes they’re renting when they win their big prize. Too often, you see them go for the most expensive. They choose the house at the top of their budget.

I wonder if these new millionaires considered that a larger house probably means higher utility costs. Did they factor in the costs of homeowners insurance and property taxes? Do they know if the house has a problem, they can’t call the landlord to come make a repair?

They spend most of their winnings on a new house. You’ll note they never talk about how much money they really got after taxes. Most likely they will have the same job with the same pay that only allowed them to rent that small house. Will the savings on rent pay all the new costs of that luxury home?

I wonder some of these same things when looking at plans for improvements around Pinellas. I admit the plans are amazing and the improvements would make a big difference. I also understand that tourism is an important industry, so we need to impress. And our residents deserve to live in a beautiful environment with great traffic flow and all the amenities that make life great.

County commissioners often point out how our needs are limitless (infinite), but our resources are not. Another salient point is that every improvement has to be maintained. Most grant money is a one-time thing and unless another grant comes in, once the money is spent it is gone. Some funding sources do not allow money to be spent on maintenance or operations.

I wonder the same things I question when watching HGTV. If less were done in one area, could more be done overall? Is there enough money for maintenance, repairs and operations?

Plus, the fancier the renovations in one area, the shoddier the old looks. And whether we like to admit it or not, Pinellas has a lot of areas that aren’t looking their best, and some are unsafe.

We have roadways and buildings that have not been maintained. They should have been improved many years ago. We have people living in residences where no one should live. But we build fancy new apartment buildings and condos that cater to the rich, because that’s where the money can be made.

We improve roads in the areas where those with the fattest wallets live and we cater to tourists. We follow the money.

Maybe we go too fancy when we just need to go with clean and safe. We need to remember whatever improvements we make will look inferior in a few years if we don’t maintain them. Money is tight and much of the funding comes from taxpayers at all income levels.

Just like those homeowners who don’t think about the expenses that come when they upgrade their residences, we depend on government officials to remember those things and make wise decisions for us all into the future.

And don’t forget we need a plentiful, clean water supply and our wastewater systems need to be upgraded. Flooding is a problem. We also need community health care, fire protection, public safety, transit, affordable housing, schools, and — well, the list is infinite. Taking care of all the needs for a healthy community is expensive.

Do we need all the fancy?

Suzette Porter it TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at