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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Commissioner objects to $1M land buy


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BROOKSVILLE - County Commissioner Diane Rowden called the intersection of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard a "death trap" and said it will only get worse with more stores and restaurants on the way.

Intersection upgrades for that corner are part of the 2016-17 transportation improvement project and could cost the county millions in property acquisition to widen Mariner Boulevard.

Rowden said that is why the county does not need to be spending $1 million now on a piece of property along S.R. 50, north of California Street, that may someday be used for a future transportation services department project.

The money, obtained from impact fees, could be used now to help alleviate congestion at S.R. 50 and Mariner Boulevard, she said.

But her colleagues disagreed and voted 4-1 to spend the $1 million. Rowden was the sole dissenting vote.

Other board members called it a wise investment as the property sits at a potentially desirable piece of real estate because of a future road extension at the site.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the property will doubtless go up in value and be worth more than $1 million.

Rowden said the county has gambled on such speculative enterprises that never reached fruition before.

Rowden also questioned the board's hastiness, with the issue being placed on the agenda without previous discussion. She also questioned why the county is paying $1 million for the property when two appraisals came back cheaper, at $825,000 and $865,000.

Under the terms of the contract, Realtor Gary Schraut would receive part of the commission from the sale. Rowden has blasted Schraut in his role as chairman of the aviation authority and has accused him of using bullying tactics.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he doesn't let personalities stand in the way of business.

"I don't care whose name is tied to it," Dukes said. "If it's a good deal for the county, I'll support it."

Rowden said she was not voting against the expenditure because of any individuals involved. The county, she said, has to exercise fiscal constraint during this economic slowdown. "There's just a lot of ways that we need to be a little more conservative on our spending," she said.

After the vote, Rowden asked staff to see if it could move up the timetable for road improvements at the congested S.R. 50-Mariner Boulevard intersection.

v vAlso Tuesday:

County commissioners voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance that combines utility and garbage billing for Republic Services customers.

Republic had requested the new billing procedure with the intent of streamlining the process.

Dukes said this new billing system should create a more efficient process but he would like to revisit the policy that created the mandatory trash pickup system in Spring Hill.

Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's environmental services director, said the new billing procedure would go into effect Jan. 1.

The board voted unanimously to approve an interlocal agreement with Citrus County to explore ways to improve the recycling efforts in both counties.

In 2010, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 7243 that set a recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020 for all counties in the state.

It is hoped that by combining resources, both counties can reach or exceed that goal.

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