Critters, roads take center stage
That’s how long it took me to review the pertinent parts of Tuesday’s county commission agenda.
Hey, I’m a pro at this and can normally zip through even the busiest agenda in an hour. Usually a lot less.
I don’t routinely blog about the county commission agenda this far out from the meeting, but there is just so much to discuss. So let’s take a peek:
— Animal shelter workshop at 9 a.m. I don’t need to review the last time commissioners discussed the shelter project and the angst which followed. I’m confident that will not be repeated.
The workshop agenda isn’t posted yet so I don’t know what’s being presented. But on the agenda for the afternoon’s regular meeting, Community Services Director Eric Head offers two options: $6 million animal shelter building with $9 million total cost, plus additions; $9 million building with $12 million total cost, plus additions.
I’m sure there will be plenty of chat about that.
— County Administrator Steve Howard has an idea: Ask the county's impact-fee consultant if we can increase transportation fees, which are now set at 50% of the recommended amount.
Impact fees one-time charges on new construction to pay for the impacts of growth in areas such as schools, roads, law enforcement and the like. The current fee is $6,017 for a new house. Not surprisingly, transportation and schools make up the lion’s share. If the county were able to double the road fee, which is the county's want, it would add $1,932.
No-brainer, right? The county is growing houses like crazy and we could use those fees. (Subject for another day but here’s some reality: For every $1 a house pays in county taxes it requires $1.50 in government services. That’s why we need impact fees.)
The issue is whether state law allows us to increase them. There are rules about how this is done and the government can’t raise impact fees whenever it wants to. So Howard's request is to find out from the consultant whether “extraordinary circumstances” exist to allow for that increase.
I know that’s a government mouthful (it's actually tons more complicated). Simple, though: We want higher impact fees for roads. Growth from the parkway is taking over our roads. The first builder who complains, saying higher impact fees will drive customers to other counties, well, I say let ‘em go. I’m tired of cheapening this county.
— The five-year capital improvement plan is always something to behold as I can’t plan my finances five days in advance let alone several years (that explains plenty). While it’s subject to change, the CIP lays out a fairly clear path.
I reviewed the plan and took a bunch of notes. It’s $365 million over five years. Most of that stuff is paid with property taxes, gas taxes, utility fees, grants, landfill fees, and a host of other sources.
I’m going to break it down later this week, but one project is noticeably absent: C.R. 491 widening between Pine Ridge Boulevard and U.S. 41 north of Beverly Hills.
The plan does include intersection improvements at Hampshire Boulevard/491 and that’ll help, but any five-year capital plan that doesn’t have the widening of this vital section of two-lane roadway in the county’s population pinch-point has a gaping hole in it.
I’m not suggesting the county should be out with a road crew in five years. I mean…I’m not crazy. But the process has to start. Ten years from now we don’t want to have the same conversation about that section of 491 being behind the 8-ball as we’re having today about 491 south of C.R. 486.
— Commissioner Rebecca Bays has met with state transportation officials about getting Citrus some help because our road woes are worsened by motorists wanting to avoid I-75 and U.S. 19. A presentation of some sort is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.
Bays is somewhat of a regional transportation big thinker, so I look forward to that conversation. It's always smart to pay attention to transportation talk, as most in Citrus County know.
That’s it for now. I encourage you to look at the agenda, our government’s playbook for a public meeting.
Take a gander and come on in.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.