Morning routine hasn't changed

The East Lake subdivision that told an 82-year-old

she couldn't feed the squirrels considers issuing an apology.


Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

Published December 5, 2005

EAST LAKE - Much has happened since Frances Mirowski and her fight to feed the squirrels at her home made front-page news last month.

Shoppers at Publix and Walgreens applauded her.

The president of her homeowners association asked to meet with her.

And two days after Mirowski's story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times , the association's board convened a special meeting.

But what has stayed exactly the same is Mirowski's morning routine. She still feeds the birds and squirrels by the oak tree in her front yard, just as she has done every day for 12 years.

"I'm not going to stop even if they tell me not to," Mirowski said. "No, no. I've just got to do it."

The hoopla over the 82-year-old woman who has statues of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, in her home began with a letter from her subdivision's property manager. The letter told her to "cease and desist" throwing bread crumbs and peanuts to the wildlife. By doing so, she was violating a county ordinance and possibly drawing coyotes and disease to the neighborhood, the letter said.

But there is no county ordinance or state law against feeding birds and squirrels, though Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, recommends against it.

"I'll say it one thousand times: I should have researched it more," said Ronald J. Costa, the letter's author. He said he is embarrassed about not doing the research first.

The consensus among those at the special board meeting was that "the approach we took was wrong," said Tom DiGangi, the president of the Salem Square Homeowners Association.

DiGangi said Mirowski's situation was one of two items on the meeting's agenda.

Homeowner Louise Schult said the association should treat the elderly with more care, according to the meeting's minutes. She also said someone should have spoken to Mirowski before sending a letter.

Board member Dick Whitman said he found nothing regarding the feeding of animals in the Salem Square or Ridgemoor Master Association documents, according to the meeting's minutes. He did find a nuisance clause.

Board member Bill Pickard made a motion to issue an apology to Mirowski for the tone and statements made in the letter sent to her by the subdivision's property management company. DiGangi and the board's vice president should issue the apology in a personal meeting. The theme of the meeting should be "cooperation and understanding regarding the feeding of the birds," the minutes said.

Pickard also asked that any letters written by the management company to Salem Square property owners be submitted to the board for approval first.

He also asked for an investigation of laws about feeding wildlife.

Bill Ploplis, Mirowski's son, asked DiGangi to postpone a meeting with his mother until after the holidays. He said he hinted to DiGangi to just let it go and let his mother keep feeding the animals.

"I'm hoping the neighborhood will just ignore her or ignore whatever she's been doing," Ploplis said.

At least one couple is willing to let it go. After the article, Ploplis said the neighbors next door came over with three large bags of peanuts, saying, "Any friend of St. Francis is a friend of mine."

Don't feed the squirrels? Nuts to you, she says