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Zephyrhills council supports U.S. 301 improvement plan

(ran PC edition)

City Council members on Monday night voted to pursue a road improvement plan for U.S. 301 creating two northbound lanes and one southbound lane through the heart of the city.

The plan departs from a state Department of Transportation recommendation that makes 301, known as Gall Boulevard within the city, one-way going north. That would have left Sixth Street to handle all southbound traffic.

City planner Todd Vande Berg said the state's plan did not fit with the city's plans for downtown that include developing a restaurant and shopping complex around the intersection of 301 and Fifth Avenue.

"What DOT is proposing to do is not at all conducive with what we're trying to do from a redevelopment standard downtown," Vande Berg said. "It kind of bisects the city."

"Under the plan approved Monday, Sixth Street, which already is one-way southbound, would be extended and eventually merge with 301 at South Avenue. U.S. 301 would have two northbound lanes running from a proposed intersection at State Road 39, extending to the Seventh Street extension. One southbound lane would remain.

The city will pursue state funds available for road design, but no construction will happen this year.

Also Monday evening, the council approved a contract with Karla Owens as city attorney.

Zephyrhills will pay Owens, also Dade City's full-time attorney, $100 an hour, not to exceed $25,000 annually. In addition, Zephyrhills will pay Dade City $6,000 a year, or 10 percent of Owens' salary there, to pay for work done on Zephyrhills' behalf during business hours.

The contract contains a clause requiring Owens to recuse herself from both sides in any litigation that might arise between the two cities.

Zephyrhills attorney Kara Hardin had expressed an interest in Zephyrhills' city attorney position after she saw a job posting on the city's Web site. The posting was inadvertently left online after Owens was hired.

City Manager Steve Spina invited Hardin to meet with the council Monday, but she declined.