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Lawmaker says U.S. 41 will have illumination

The state will pay for light poles along the widened highway as well as on part of State Road 54 in west Pasco, says the Republican.

State Rep. Mike Fasano just wanted the County Commission to know that all is well with plans to put street lights along U.S. 41 after it is widened.

So the New Port Richey Republican raced over to Dade City on Tuesday morning to deliver impromptu assurances to the commission that a previous mix-up with the state Department of Transportation had been worked out.

"The agreement is there. The lights will be put up," Fasano said.

The majority floor leader for the House of Representatives said he became concerned after reading newspaper accounts of problems with the lighting agreement between the county and the Tampa DOT district after Gov. Jeb Bush took office in January. Although the DOT, under former Gov. Lawton Chiles, had agreed to pay about $107,000 to construct the poles, that item was not included in the agency's recent five-year work plan.

A Times editorial accused the DOT of reneging on a deal worked out by a past administration. Fasano said Tuesday that Bush was being criticized for something that was not his fault. A few phone calls by his office cleared up the problem, Fasano said.

County officials had agreed to pay the electrical bill for the 185 light poles along U.S. 41 between County Line and Bell Lake roads, but not the capital costs for putting the lights there. The electric and maintenance bills are expected to run about $9,557 a year.

If commissioners were surprised to learn at a meeting several weeks ago that the DOT had not budgeted the money, they were pleased to learn Tuesday that all was in order. The widening of U.S. 41 should be completed in about nine months.

"It certainly is good news that you bring us from DOT," commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said.

The mix-up also had cast doubt on plans to install 75 light poles on State Road 54 from U.S. 19 to Madison Street in west Pasco. The county had a similar agreement with the state for that road, but Fasano said those poles also will come through.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.

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