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Report says lake work is justified
It adds that the job wasn't done because an official lives there.
By MICHAEL VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 16, 2007
TAMPA - Amid criticism that Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair may have used his position to get public money spent on the lake where he lives, top officials have rallied to his defense.
On Wednesday, commissioners got a report that says a $600,000 project to improve a chain of lakes that includes Blair's lake, Noreast, is proper use of taxpayer dollars.
Although commissioners already approved the project's money in January, County Administrator Pat Bean said she scheduled the report for Wednesday's meeting so that it will bring "closure" to questions raised in the past two months about Blair's role.
In June, the St. Petersburg Times reported that county crews spent more time on Blair's 8-acre lake than any of the other 229 in the county, and that Blair actively pressed for money to be spent on it.
"Everyone has pointed a finger that the only reason this was being done was because of a commissioner," Bean said. "This is not the case."
What the report does not clear up, however, is why Noreast has gotten more county attention than most of the lakes on a 2006 list of Hillsborough's 20 most polluted produced by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. In fact, of the chain's seven lakes and ponds in Forest Hills affected by the $600,000 project, only Cedar Lake East north of Noreast made the list.
Only two other lakes on the DEP's list have active county projects to improve drainage or water quality, officials said.
The county's Environmental Protection Commission is spending $75,000 to help clean up the county's largest lake, Thonotosassa. It has high concentrations of fecal matter, lead and ammonia, which can lead to fish kills.
Lake Carroll in Carrollwood is slated for a $843,000 stormwater project over the next three years.