ZEPHYRHILLS — The Zephyrhills City Council voted Monday to approve new plans to renovate the downtown fire station and have a third party review state plans to modify U.S. 301.
City Manager Steve Spina presented a toned-down version of the proposed renovations to the downtown fire station. Spina said the new version has taken out unnecessary frills. The big changes are the omission of individual offices and a conference room.
The new plans save $165,000 on the cost of the project.
The original plan came into question when a proposal was made to add to Fire Station 1 instead of renovating the damaged downtown station. Council vice president Jodi Wilkeson worried the loss of the downtown station would affect emergency response times and leave downtown businesses vulnerable.
Wilkeson said the city has now reached a building plan that is close to the promises the council has made to the Fire Department and city residents.
The council also decided to have David Troemel of Kimley-Horn look at the data available for the upcoming modifications to U.S. 301 and work with the Department of Transportation to create a better working plan for the project.
"I want to protect Zephyrhills," council president Luis Lopez said. "I want Zephyrhills to move forward to the future but keep the small-town atmosphere that we have."
Lopez said the DOT's plan for U.S. 301 may lead to the death of local businesses and a push toward big-box stores.
The council was in agreement over opposition to the DOT's plan.
Mayor Cliff McDuffie wanted to know if the information the DOT was using was updated or if it was from seven years ago, when the plan was originally drafted.
"Three lanes one-way will just tear this town apart," McDuffie said. "We are not big enough right now to handle that."
Council member Clyde Bracknell said the DOT's plan has changed very little throughout the history of the project, from what he's seen.
Tom Montgomery, an engineer with the DOT, said there were concerns about the city's version of the plan, mainly the effect on the city's historic district, a mobile home park on Seventh Street and the flow of traffic coming from the downtown post office.
"We need to work together and see if we can come up with something and get it started," Bracknell said.