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Hernando County leaders tweak wish lists for stimulus funds

BROOKSVILLE — Even as county officials await details of what federal economic stimulus dollars might trickle down into their hands, they have been scrambling to put together project lists.

County commissioners this week tweaked the lists and learned the latest details of new projects and project categories popping up in the most recent information about the stimulus program.

Because the money will come in various categories, commissioners have been approving multiple lists, not knowing what might receive funding.

During a meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization earlier this month, commissioners gave tentative approval to a list of transportation projects to hand off to the Florida Department of Transportation to begin the application process for federal money.

The ranking included a long list of resurfacing projects in the county and in Brooksville, the $17 million project to build Governor's Boulevard from State Road 50 to Powell Road and a variety of sidewalk and other improvement projects.

During Tuesday's MPO meeting, the group formally accepted the list.

They also learned from Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planning coordinator, that new information indicates that there might be dollars available for transit systems.

The county's public transit system, The BUS, has been controversial. County staffers have been working on a report on some of the creative solutions that have been proposed to improve service, Dix said, and that report is expected next month.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell also told the group that he has begun talking to Citrus County officials about possible connections between the transit systems in the two counties. Recently, Citrus commissioners decided to add a fixed-route component to their transit system.

A total of $114 million worth of other county projects were presented in another list to commissioners Tuesday. That list included three water and sewer projects and three economic development projects, including the proposed $50 million judicial center.

Also on the list are three road projects that didn't fit on the MPO list because they were not eligible for DOT stimulus funding. They were included on the second list in case discretionary dollars for road projects become available, said Larry Jennings, deputy county administrator.

The projects were selected by county staffers based on how close they were to construction, their potential for job creation and their level of benefit to the community, Jennings said.

Commissioner Rose Rocco suggested raising the amount proposed for improvements in south Brooksville from $2 million to $5 million.

"That would be a stimulus there. There's a lot that needs to be done,'' Rocco said, noting that jobs would be created.

Russell said he had talked to the county engineer and that there were enough projects needed in south Brooksville to justify the higher price tag.

Commissioner Jim Adkins concurred and said he would like to see the money set aside to improve lime rock roads be increased from $1.5 million to $3 million.

"I don't think that you'll find any objection to that,'' Russell said.

Jennings explained that the county staff would be working its way down the priority list and just wanted to be ready.

"We may get a request that just pops up on us, and we'll have this list,'' he said.

"I think we're well postured for that,'' Russell said.

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

Hernando County leaders tweak wish lists for stimulus funds 02/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 7:31pm]
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