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Council to vote on city project

(ran PC edition)

A Tampa construction company submits an $871,508 bid for a downtown streetscaping plan.

The project has been in the works for years.

City Council members have debated it. The city's manager and planning director have fought for it. City property owners have paid taxes to design it.

But so far, the much-hyped downtown streetscaping project hasn't moved beyond the drawing board.

That could change tonight, as the City Council votes on whether to accept the latest bid for the project.

Price tag: $871,508.46.

If cost were the only criterion, the proposal from Carr Construction Services of Tampa would seem to stand a pretty good chance of approval. Zephyrhills can afford it: The state has already awarded a $600,000 grant for the project, and the rest is included in City Manager Steve Spina's 1999-2000 spending proposal that holds the line on property taxes.

And Carr's plan pales in comparison to the previous low bid of $1.6 million.

But cost isn't likely to be the only factor on council members' minds as they cast their votes tonight.

Other major hurdles: A proposed traffic circle at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street that has drawn criticism from council members and business owners in the past, and the likelihood that construction would take place in the winter, the city's busiest time of the year.

"I think the biggest concern among the downtown merchants is that the construction is going to interrupt their business," said Mayor James Bailey, who doesn't have voting rights. "They're already having a hard time making ends meet."

Bailey said he expects some debate over the roundabout, but he doesn't expect it to derail the project's approval.

"If it comes in under budget, or around it, and it looks like it will, then I think we'll probably proceed with it," he said.

City Manager Spina downplayed the roundabout controversy, saying more and more planners around the state are incorporating traffic circles into their projects.

The streetscaping project, in addition to the roundabout, includes plans for trees, park benches, Victorian lights, brick sidewalks, and road and drainage-system improvements.