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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

County may get $5.75M for local projects


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The state is recommending giving Hernando County $5.75 million for four economic improvement projects.

In its proposed 2013-14 budget, the Florida House of Representatives has budgeted $750,000 to improve Rogers Park; $1.5 million to restore the manor house at Chinsegut Hill Historic Plantation; $2 million to develop a countywide broadband network; and $1.5 million for a new adult technical training program.

The Rogers Park money would be used to pave the limerock parking lot. During heavy rains, the limerock runs into the Weekiwachee River. Stormwater retention improvements would also prevent surface runoff.

Located along the river, people use Rogers Park to swim, launch their boats, fish or picnic.

County commissioners have discussed improvements to the Chinsegut Manor House, built in the 1840s, and have searched for funding sources. The half million from the state would go toward restoration efforts on the building about five miles north of Brooksville.

Developing a countywide broadband network has been high on the priority list of the county’s economic development department for years.

Improving the connectivity to high-speed Internet was listed as one of the most pressing needs by businesses in Hernando County and is seen as a way of enhancing economic development.

The $1.5 million would be appropriated to the Hernando County School District for the creation of a new adult technical training program. If approved and prior to the release of the money, the school district would have to submit a program development and expenditure plan to the Florida Department of Education.

County officials have said the key to job creation locally is re-training workers with high-tech skills many new industries demand.

The budget package goes to Gov. Rick Scott for consideration. Scott has the veto power to turn down any or all of the projects.

But Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he likes Hernando County’s chances and believes if the money is granted it would enhance not only the local economy but that of economic development statewide.

“I think our chances are good,” Russell said.

State Sen. Wilton Simpson, whose district includes Hernando County, is equally hopeful.

“I am optimistic that Gov. Scott will see the value in the funding that the Legislature allocated to Hernando County’s projects,” Simpson said in an email to Hernando Today. “These projects will all add value to our area and are a good use of taxpayer money.

“It has been a pleasure working directly with Hernando County officials regarding their priorities,” Simpson said.

In a statement, State Representative Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in recent years, the Florida Legislature made responsible choices in tough economic times to balance the state budget and provide a fiscally sustainable future, without putting the burden off on taxpayers through increased taxes.

Those efforts, combined with improving economic conditions, resulted in a state budget surplus for the first time in seven years, McKeel said.

“Though we are no longer facing a significant shortfall, the Florida House remains committed to the disciplined fiscal principles that led us to where we are today and sought to prioritize funding in the best interest of all Floridians,” he wrote.

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