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City Council cuts $11 million in projects from Zephyrhills capital improvement plan

ZEPHYRHILLS — With budgetary belt-tightening under way, City Council has cut $11 million in projects from its five-year capital improvement plan, an ever-evolving document that maps out major projects for the coming years.

Some projects were cut to save money, like plans to build a third fire station. Several drainage improvements were dropped because they would affect only a few homes.

"It's a living document," said City Manager Steve Spina, who said items are added and subtracted over time due to economic pressures and turnover on the council. "It will change more as we go along."

Still included in the $25 million plan are road, park, airport, water and sewer, and library projects. The two areas not touched by cuts were the airport and utilities, because they are funded through separate fees. Many of the remaining projects are funded through grants, city taxes and fees allocated to specific programs and money from the general fund.

The city also kept about $1.4 million to renovate the current library or build a new one.

The existing library, approximately 4,500 square feet, would be doubled by the expansion. Now, it consists of one large room with a small area divided off into staff offices and a book drop. Vicki Elkins, the library's director, said more room is desperately needed.

"We are looking forward to expanding, because we are really tight," Elkins said. "We need more room out on the floor for seating. And of course, everyone wants more public access computers."

On a recent weekday, about 125 patrons signed up to use six public access computers. The director's desk sits a few feet away from the break room's refrigerator, and office supplies are kept on a bottom bookshelf near the front desk.

Improvements would include more office space and a meeting room for classes and programs. Elkins said she would like to see the new space created in the next two years.

She also said demand for services is up and patrons want more access to materials, and they want them faster than ever.

"We have been extremely busy this summer," Elkins said. "When the winter residents come back, we are really going to be running our little feet and legs off."

Spina said a new library was a high priority, but not the top one. Right now, the No. 1 priority in the city seems to be deciding what should be done about the city's fire stations. The downtown Fire Station No. 2 on Sixth Avenue has been damaged by flooding. Repairing and renovating it would cost more than $1.2 million, while building a new station elsewhere would top $1 million.

A public meeting and workshop will be held Monday so the City Council can reevaluate its options.

"I think we've been in on a holding pattern on the library," Spina said. "When push comes to shove, you need a fire station before you need a new library."

City Council cuts $11 million in projects from Zephyrhills capital improvement plan 10/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 2, 2009 6:59pm]
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