Budget conference: Citrus County projects in good shape

CR city hall
Twelve of 14 projects are in line for some funding.

Most Citrus County projects are in line for funding or in the mix as the Session heads into its final week.

Lobbyist Gene McGee with Sunrise Consulting Group sent Citrus County officials a Saturday night email saying eight of 14 projects are coming in at full ask. Of the remainder, all but two have some funding in both the House and Senate budgets.

Here’s where Citrus County projects stand:

— Crystal River is in line for $1.35 million to design and permit a new city hall.

City Manager Ken Frink said the plan is to replace city hall at its current site on U.S. 19, elevating the building to keep it protected from flooding.

“If we move it out of the flood plain it won’t be in the city limits,” he said.

He said the design will include the structure atop a parking garage.

Construction estimates are at $15 million, he said. The city has $150,000 set aside to match the state funds for the design and permitting.

Frink said the city would look to state and federal resiliency funds for construction.

— $4 million for the Homosassa River restoration. This project has had hot-and-cold financial success. Gov. Ron DeSantis let stand $1.5 million in 2020, then vetoed a $10 million allocation last year.

Save Crystal River is approved for $2 million of its $4 million request.

Both the Crystal River and Homosassa projects remove invasive Lyngbya from the river’s bottom and plant eelgrass.

—The City of Inverness is approved for its $1 million request to move the Whispering Pines Park entrance off Forest Drive to U.S. 41 opposite a shopping center traffic signal.

—Inverness also is in line for $1.125 million to connect Whispering Pines Park to the Withlacoochee State Trail. The city had requested $2.225 million.

— Citrus County requested $3.9 million to retrofit its Sugarmill Woods sewer plant to provide reclaimed water for golf courses.

— $2 million for LifeStream Behavioral Center toward construction of a Baker Act facility in Lecanto, plus $1.5 million in recurring funds.

— The Lake Tsala Apopka restoration project is in line for $750,000.

— Citrus High School’s Construction Academy is set for $308,500. Last year DeSantis vetoed an appropriation of about half that amount.

— Budget negotiators agreed to $500,000 for the Citrus County Fair.

— The county’s biggest legislative request was $9 million for the second phase of the Inverness Airport Business Park. Both the House and Senate agreed.

Two projects are out in the cold for the moment.

The House is funding $2.3 million for the Halls River Road multipurpose path, but nothing from the Senate. The county request is $7.3 million.

And Veterans Village, a planned assisted living facility for military veterans and their spouses, came up empty so far in both budgets despite a request for $2.5 million.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by Tuesday 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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