BROOKSVILLE - Two out of five is not too bad, says County Commission Chairman Dave Russell.
Russell said Hernando County can consider itself fortunate that Gov. Rick Scott, in his $74.1 billion state budget approved Monday, got the green light for two vital projects that will ultimately benefit residents.
A $2 million request for a countrywide broadband network was axed out of the overall state budget Monday. Also failing to make the list was an $8 million expansion for the coast-to-coast trail expansion and $750,000 for infrastructure improvements to Rogers Park.
Hernando County did secure funding for two other submitted wish list projects: $1.5 million to restore the manor house at Chinsegut Hill Historic Plantation; and $1.5 million for a new adult technical training program.
"We did well and I commend our lawmakers up in Tallahassee," Russell said.
Russell said he was not surprised by the broadband denial because there is no past precedence in state assistance for such a project and the creation of such is more a private sector responsibility.
"It was worth a try," he said.
The Rogers Park denial was also not unexpected because those funds typically come through Florida Department of Environmental Protection grants.
However, Russell said the Chinsegut restoration request made sense because it is a state holding and legislators want to make sure the historic establishment is well-maintained when it is turned over to Hernando County in a lease arrangement.
The $1.5 million for an adult technical training program was pretty much a given because it is designed to boost economic development and create jobs, he said.
That money would be appropriated to the Hernando County School District for the creation of a new training program. Before the money is allocated, the school district must 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.
Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn said she was surprised by the veto of the trail expansion because it had received widespread support from both chambers of the state legislature and others.
The Good Neighbor Trail is already being extended to the Withlacoohee State Trail, a project that the Metropolitan Planning Organization budgeted and which should be completed in about a year.
The state funding would have extended it west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway Trail, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians an uninterrupted route from Pinellas to Volusia County, filling in all the gaps along the way.
Bradburn said Brooksville would have been the geographic epicenter of the merged trails and would have provided an economic boost to the area from racers throughout the world converging on Brooksville.
"I couldn't be more disappointed in (Gov. Scott's) decision," Bradburn said.
Bradburn said Scott reasoned that there was money in the Florida Department of Transportation to fill in portions of the trail gaps and that the project could still be realized.
Bradburn said the FDOT does not have the money and the project is not even in its five-year plan.
"When you piecemeal a project of this type, it costs considerably more because now land speculators are going to put up financial roadblocks all along the path and taxpayers will pay the price," Bradburn said.