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Sales tax plan gets a local flavor

(ran NTP edition)

Sally Walchuk, secretary of the Northdale Civic Association, waited at home Thursday for the phone to ring.

An aide to Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Jim Norman had called earlier in the day, saying Norman wanted to talk to Walchuk. He had some good news.

On the phone, Norman told her he had convinced the County Commission to allocate $400,000 for reclaimed water in Northdale. The item would go on a 13-page list of projects to be funded by a proposed half-cent sales tax.

"She said it would spread through Northdale like wildfire," Norman said.

Commissioners hope so. In the past week, they have tacked on nearly $20-million for neighborhood projects that North of Tampa residents want dearly. Commissioner Ed Turanchik backed $900,000 for sewer repairs in Town 'N Country. Norman got a total of $6-million for reclaimed water, and another $3.1-million for parks in Northdale, Lutz, Keystone and Citrus Park.

Indeed, under the commission's latest list, North of Tampa does handsomely.

The area would receive $144-million, or about 44 percent of the money designated for specific neighborhood projects. The region includes about 22 percent of Hillsborough's population.

Before any money actually gets spent, voters will have to approve a sales tax increase in a September referendum. A yes vote would boost Hillsborough's sales tax to 7 percent for the next 30 years. The tax would also provide $319-million to finance a new football stadium.

While many voters connect the sales tax with the Bucs, commissioners want residents to see all the local projects that also would benefit. Each time commissioners updated a list of projects funded by the tax, they added neighborhood projects.

The funds for county projects bounced from $75-million to $86-million to $142-million, according to Ed Hunzeker, assistant county administrator for finance. First, the board drew up a spending list for five years. Then they extended their outlook to six years.

The county's staff compiled the list from a much longer directory of programs it can't afford, officials said. Then it ranked the projects after holding 10 public hearings last year.

Commissioners say the items reflect desperate needs, not a wish list.

"For a neighborhood that doesn't have a sidewalk down to the local school, that's a crisis," said Turanchik, who represents Town 'N Country.

Lutz's volunteer fire station, for example, would get $150,000 to enlarge its overnight barracks. Right now, the station has 2 bunkbeds and 30 firefighters. All share one shower.

During the night, the station can't house enough firefighters to staff both engines. If a two-alarm fire rings, the extra firefighters get calls at home.

"When there's a hurricane, you have people sleeping on the floors," firefighter David Garofalo said.

Next door at the Lutz Library, sales tax dollars would pay for an $80,000 roof replacement. Joe Stines, director of libraries, said the Lutz branch, which hasn't been repaired since it opened in 1970, needs urgent work.

"We have had major leaks at Lutz and it has been patched and patched," Stines said. "It is getting close to 30 years old, and I know that at my roof at home the life expectancy is 21 years."

Other projects make sense, officials said. Hillsborough's reclaimed water system saves homeowners hundreds of dollars in utility bills and conserves water. The system works by capturing sewage water, treating it, and recycling it for sprinkling. Homeowners shell out a hook-up fee, but then pay only a few dollars each month.

"I think the (Northdale) board of directors will be pushing for the tax," said Walchuk, who plans to include information about it in the Northdale News, a flier sent to 3,000 homeowners.

Other residents, even those who would benefit from the sales tax revenue, said they can't support the tax if any money helps the Bucs.

Philip McNiff, 69, uses the Orange Grove Recreational Park to hit golf balls nearly every week. He understands that the park, where his grandchildren play, needs security lights. He knows its parking lot, where he leaves his Ford Escort, needs resurfacing.

If the sales tax passes, the park would get $100,000 worth of those improvements. But McNiff won't be voting for them.

"I think it's not fair that they put three issues together on the same ballot," he said. "I think it's politics."

Audrey Grimes, a volunteer for the North Tampa library, also won't support the referendum. The 74-year-old book lover knows her library would get $20,000 to replace old air conditioning units.

She wants those repairs done, and much more, too, but not if it means building a new stadium as well. She said much more money would go to the Bucs than to her library.

"I think $20,000 is a drop in the bucket," she said.

North of Tampa Goodies

The proposed half-cent increase to the sales tax on the September ballot won't fund only big-ticket items like a new Tampa Stadium. The tax also would pay for a litany of North of Tampa projects, including items like a new roof for the Lutz library and new sidewalks in Carrollwood. Here's a list:

SCHOOLS

Construction of new schools:

WITHIN 1-5 YEARS

High School "FFF" Lutz area: $39.1-million

WITHIN YEARS 6-15

Middle School "EE" West Chase area: $18.7-million

Middle School "GG" Lutz area: $18.7-million

Elementary School "D" West Chase area: $11.5-million

Elementary School "G" Tampa Palms area: $11.5-million

Elementary School "H" Van Dyke Road: $11.5-million

FIRE PROTECTION

Renovations and Expansions:

Concrete Aprons _ various locations _ $100,000 for Summerfield, Henderson, N Hillsborough, Carrollwood and Lutz stations.

Lutz Fire Station _ $150,000 _ Expand station to accommodate 24-hour personnel.

TRANSPORTATION

Renovations and expansion of intersections:

Bruce B. Downs at Lake Forest _ $200,000 _ Install traffic signal.

Dale Mabry at Hamilton _ $400,000 _ Town 'N Country _ Install traffic signal and construct left turn lanes.

Savarese at Waters _ $200,000 _ Town 'N Country _ Install traffic signal.

New sidewalks:

Carrollwood: $500,000

Town 'N Country: $200,000

STORMWATER

Capital rehabilitation:

Replace Known Failed System:

Keystone: $200,000 _ 0.41 miles of storm sewers

Lutz: $70,000 _ 0.16 miles of storm sewers

Carrollwood: $500,000 _ 1.25 miles of storm sewers

Town 'N Country: $600,000 _ 1.49 miles of storm sewers

Upgrade Failed Systems:

Keystone: $40,000

Lutz: $30,000

Carrollwood: $200,000

Town 'N Country: $300,000

Construct new facilities:

Bearss/Duck Pond II _ $100,000 _ Final implementation of the master drainage plan for the Duck Pond drainage basin by providing main trunk from Skipper Avenue to 131st Avenue and 15th Street pond.

Rocky/Brushy Creek Basin _ $200,000 _ Implementation of the Rocky Creek Stormwater Master Plan.

PARKS AND TRAILS

Regional Parks:

Lake Park _ $400,000 _ Replace parking lots, restrooms, residence, maintenance shop and shell on roads. Refurbish horse areas.

Wilderness Park _ $50,000 _ Reroof building, recarpet residence, redeck boardwalks, additional shell for Dead River Road.

Neighborhood and District Parks:

Orange Grove _ $100,000 _ Repave parking lot, upgrade sidewalks and security lighting.

Logan Gate _ $50,000 _ Provide off-street parking, landscaping.

Northdale Park _ $500,000 _ New community center.

Keystone Park _ $200,000 _ Upgrade tennis and basketball courts.

Nye Park _ $100,000 _ Upgrade tennis court.

South Mobley Park _ $2-million _ Additional soccer, baseball and softball fields.

Northside Little League _ $100,000 _ Upgrade lighting.

Citrus Park Little League _ $100,000 _ Upgrade lighting.

Lutz Little League _ $100,000 _ Upgrade lighting.

New trails:

Town 'N Country Linear Park Extension _ $800,000 _ Construct a two-mile paved trail along Channel G Between Webb Road and Sheldon Road with bridge construction over Rocky Creek. Then, construct a paved trail along Channel G and tributary channel between Shimberg Baseball Complex and Barry Road with overpass at Hanley Road.

UTILITIES

Expansion of reclaimed water lines to neighborhoods:

Original Carrollwood _ 1.6-million

Northdale _ $400,000

Bellamy Road _ $800,000

Northwest County Reclaimed Water System _ 3.2-million

LIBRARY

Lutz Library _ $80,000 _ Replace roof.

North Tampa Library _ $20,000 _ Replace A/C condenser units.

Source: Hillsborough County

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