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City's plan for improvements passes 1st test

Recreation and infrastructure upgrades are among the proposals that Tarpon Springs commissioners give a preliminary nod.

With $4.4-million already set aside for a planned new public safety building, the biggest item in next year's city projects budget is a $1-million expansion of the Walton Avenue Community Center.

The second-biggest item is furnishings for the public safety building, which are estimated to cost $450,000.

The North Anclote Nature Park will get $335,000 to pay for improvements needed for the park to open next year.

It's all in the city's $6-million capital improvement plan for the accounting year that will begin in October.

The capital improvement section of the yearly city budget is the plan for spending Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenues, the city's share of gasoline tax money, and the impact fees developers pay to upgrade police, fire, recreation and government services and the water and sewer system.

Nearly every big city project gets its money in this part of the budget. The five city commissioners, who have the final authority to approve the projects list, nodded assent to the version presented by city staff members at a work session Monday night.

They will consider final approval of the list along with the tax rate and the rest of the budget at public hearings Aug. 23 and 30.

Many of the projects have high visibility, while others repair and expand the basic systems that make the city function, such as roads, streets, sewers and water lines.

Next year's projects are just the first step toward addressing growing infrastructure needs, said City Manager Ellen Posivach.

"We've clearly got an infrastructure problem," she said.

She noted that a recent county study of Lake Tarpon suggested that hundreds of residents who live next to the lake and now use septic tanks be hooked into the city sewer system at an approximate cost of $7.9-million. The septic tanks allow nitrogen and phosphorus to seep into the lake, the study found.

Posivach said she has been concerned since taking her job in January that about 40 percent of homes in the city use septic tanks, not city sewer service.

She plans to hire a public services administrator, who will work for Public Services Director John Cruz, to help study that need and develop a plan to systematically extend the network of sewer lines.

"It does seem that we do need to start with properties that are immediately adjacent to bodies of water," Posivach said.

Proposed improvements

These are the major projects in Tarpon Springs' proposed capital improvement program budget.

Infrastructure

$500,000 Sewer and manhole relining

$150,000 Sidewalk system improvements

$82,000 Disston Avenue/Center Street drainage

$250,000 Whitcomb Boulevard/Gulf Road sewer project

Recreation

$54,000 Improvements at Morgan and Lime streets tot lots

$335,000 Bathrooms, pavilions, etc., at new North Anclote

Nature Park

$65,000 Riverside Park athletic field lighting

$1-million New gymnasium at Walton Avenue Community Center

Other

$400,000 Property for cemetery expansion

$450,000 Furniture for new public safety building

$250,000 Downtown retail district improvements

$130,000 Second street sweeper for city fleet

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