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County wants houses moved, not wrecked

BROOKSVILLE — With the County Commission's vote on Tuesday to spend $155,000 to acquire a three-bedroom, two-bath house, the county has purchased 61 percent of the properties it needs to widen a portion of Elgin Boulevard in Spring Hill.

Now officials are thinking of ways to clear the dozens of lots that will constitute the project, and they're saying that bulldozers may not be the best solution.

Demolition and hauling away house debris can be pricey, so the county is working on a bidding process unlike anything it has done before.

After the first of the year, officials wants to seek a company or organization that will pay the county to take the houses somewhere else, Public Works Director Charles Mixson said Tuesday.

They have even talked to Habitat for Humanity to see if that organization might be interested in some of the homes.

The key to finding a better way to clear the lots is creativity, according to Larry Jennings, deputy county administrator. Having the buildings moved, leaving cleared lots behind, would not just be cheaper for the county, but it might also provide a benefit for the community.

Jennings also made the point that the Elgin widening, which has drawn a lot of criticism from people who complained that the county's foot-dragging made it more costly, is following the same process as similar projects.

In fact, thanks in part to a recent $2-million infusion of money from the Florida Department of Transportation, Elgin is on its original timeline for completion. Those dollars will allow the county to complete the purchase of right of way along a stretch of the road just east of Mariner Boulevard, Mixson said.

Commissioner Dave Russell said that the state money was significant, especially since funding is tight everywhere right now. He said the timing was good to get the properties purchased and the roadwork started.

Mixson explained that the state was interested in helping with Elgin because improving it will take some of the burden off nearby state roads, including State Road 50.

Using the state money as a match to the $2-million the county has already spent to buy property means Hernando County is spending 50 cents of its own money on the dollar, said Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley.

He said instead of criticizing the county, residents should recognize that the county's decisions have been "farsighted'' and "future thinking.''

Design work on the road widening is about 25 percent done. Mixson predicted that the right of way purchase and design could be done in 2009, with bidding and construction planned immediately after that.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

County wants houses moved, not wrecked 10/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:09pm]
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