Budget conference: Inverness Airport business park gets $9M
SRQ Airport. Image via Facebook.

SRQ Airport
Developing the airport business park is Citrus County's top economic goal.

Citrus County’s top legislative priority is in line for the full ask.

The Senate agreed with a House proposal to fund $9 million for the second phase of the Inverness Airport Business Park.

The county in 2021 received a $5 million state grant for the first phase of the business park to provide roads and central water, though the money isn’t yet spent. The county has a workshop in June to discuss master plans for the Inverness and Crystal River airports.

Citrus County officials have long pointed to the potential economic development of the business park at the Inverness Airport. The county bought the 75 acres in 2001.

The second phase is to extend the taxiway to the business park property and build hangars.

The House initially had $4.5 million for the Inverness Airport and the Senate had nothing.

In conference, the House offered $9 million for the airport business park and the Senate matched it.

Citrus County did not fare as well with its request for $7.3 million for a multipurpose path on Halls River Road. The House offered the full county’s ask and the Senate returned with no funding, so that project remains in jeopardy.

Budget differences also exist for the city of Crystal River, which requested $1.35 million to design and permit a new city hall. The House offered the city’s full ask; the Senate responded with $500,000.

Meanwhile, the city of Inverness requested $1 million toward relocating the Whispering Pines Park entrance to U.S. 41. Both the House and Senate concur.

The 290-acre park has had its entrance on Forest Drive since it opened over 40 years ago. The city wants to move the entrance to U.S. 41, which is being widened to four lanes alongside the park property, where the new entrance would be opposite a shopping center traffic signal.

The city also is in line for $1.125 million to connect Whispering Pines Park with the Withlacoochee State Trail.

Budget negotiators agreed to fund $308,000 for the Citrus High School construction academy. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a smaller request last year.

Both the Senate and House agree on $2 million in capital costs for LifeStream Behavioral Center toward construction of a Baker Act campus in Lecanto.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


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