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Road projects stay in fast lane

The state has delayed road projects in some counties, but not in Citrus, a Department of Transportation official told the County Commission on Tuesday.

The DOT briefed the commission on the state's five-year work plan, which includes a variety of construction and resurfacing projects in Citrus.

Faced with significant price increases for asphalt, concrete, reinforcing steel and other supplies, the state has scaled back or deferred some projects.

But in Citrus, the work plan is moving along.

The biggest item in the 2007-2012 plan: $44-million for a new U.S. 19 bridge over the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Also on U.S. 19, the state has earmarked more than $13-million to buy land for the eventual widening of the highway from Green Acres Street in Homosassa to Fort Island Trail in Crystal River. The money is scheduled to be spent from 2007 to 2011. Construction money hasn't been set aside yet.

The plan also includes more than $4-million to resurface U.S. 19 from Fort Island Trail to NE Second Street in 2009 and about $13.5-million for engineering (2007) and construction (2009) for the resurfacing of U.S. 19 from the Crystal River Mall to Cornflower Drive.

The five-year plan also calls for work on State Road 200 and U.S. 41 between SR 200 and the Marion County line.

Officials from Florida's Turnpike Enterprise distributed copies of their agency's most recent work plan, which calls for spending $182.9-million from 2008 to 2012 for possible development of a Suncoast Parkway extension through Citrus County.

At the commission's request, turnpike officials are updating findings about the road's environmental effects, traffic counts, funding and so on.

Turnpike officials originally hoped to return to the commission next year and seek its blessing for the project. But the scope of work that the commission seeks is so great that the officials say they won't return until mid- to late 2008.

In other commission news:

- On a 3-2 vote, the commission decided that the 10 percent pay bump that Tom Dick received when he started handling county administrator duties was temporary, not permanent.

The commission wasn't clear back in April when it unanimously approved the raise. Dick, the assistant county administrator, was handling the top job while the commission sought a new administrator.

The new administrator, June Fisher, was hired in September.

On Tuesday, Gary Bartell, Vicki Phillips and Joyce Valentino said they always intended the pay bump to be temporary.

Commission Chairman Dennis Damato said he thought it was permanent.

Commissioner John Thrumston wasn't on the commission, but he attended that meeting and thought the pay raise was meant to be permanent.

Dick's salary was $3,673.08 every two weeks, or $95,500 per year. The 10 percent bump brought him to $4,040.39 every two weeks, or $105,050 per year.

But the news wasn't all bad for Dick.

The commission majority agreed that Dick will not be required to return the $1,000 or so in extra pay he has received since he resumed his normal duties.

Moments after that discussion, Dick received an award marking his 25 years of service as a county employee.

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