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    Oldsmar wish list focuses on 'quality of life'

    Parks, a recreation center and new library play big roles in the city's proposed spending for next year.

    By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002

    OLDSMAR -- City officials are proposing to spend $3.3-million for capital improvement projects for the next year, with more than a third of that going for goodies in parks and recreation.

    The big-ticket items include the construction of the $600,000 Cypress Forest Park north of Tampa Road, with plans calling for a picnic pavilion, a water playground and some trails. The 2002-03 capital improvement budget also sets aside money to develop plans for a $1-million recreation center and to continue building the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve.

    After years of prioritizing city money on issues such as paving the streets, setting up a reliable water and sewer system and fire protection, the city can now concentrate on providing "quality of life" services, said City Manager Bruce Haddock.

    "It has a lot to do with the city's growth and maturity," Haddock said. "I think the city has reached a point in the last few years where things like park improvements have worked their way up to the top of the list."

    The capital improvement budget also calls for spending $190,000 to plan for a new $2.9-million library. The city is just finishing a new fire station on Pine Avenue N, and the library on State Street has become too small for the city.

    "We are finishing the fire station, so our next one is the library," said City Council member David Tilki. "We work our way through the important projects."

    The capital improvement budget essentially is an itemized list broken down per city department for projects worth $5,000 or more. The list typically marks the beginning of the city's budget talks, with department heads and the city manager ranking the projects for urgency.

    City Council members then discuss the capital improvement budget during a public meeting and come up with their own ranking. They are scheduled to do that later this month.

    Council member Don Bohr said he has just begun studying the budget released last week and already has some questions. For example, he wonders why the list calls for a $28,000 car for the city manager's office.

    "$28,000 is a lot of car," Bohr said. "You would think they would be able to get a better price than that."

    Haddock said there used to be a municipal car for the city manager years ago, and he would like to reinstate that. Haddock receives a $400 monthly car allowance.

    "For me, personally, I would rather have a city vehicle," Haddock said.

    The 24-page proposed budget also calls for a $120,000 bus shelter on St. Petersburg Drive and State Street, $110,000 for street resurfacing and repairing curbs, $65,000 for new library materials and $40,000 for new computers.

    The capital improvement budget is important because it helps the city focus on its priorities, Bohr said.

    "You have to have some idea of which direction you are heading, trying to meet the people's needs," Bohr said.

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