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County hastens to move the muck

The timing is right now to dredge material from lake beds exposed by drought in the Tsala Apopka chain, commissioners conclude.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2001


INVERNESS -- Noting the importance of moving ahead while lake levels are still low, the County Commission voted Tuesday to support muck removal efforts along several exposed lake beds in the Tsala Apopka chain of lakes.

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have offered to dredge the sediment from several exposed areas if the county pays for half the $100,000 tab for the project, said Wayne Sawyer, vice chair of the Lake Tsala Apopka Basin Recreation and Water Advisory Board.

The commission vote to set aside $50,000 from the county Aquatic Services Division budget as matching funds for the project. "This is something we need to address and address quick," Commissioner Gary Bartell said.

The work is still several months away, as Fish and Wildlife lake restoration specialist Mike Hulon has not yet received permits to dredge the muck, Sawyer said.

The sites for muck removal have not been finalized, either, although officials are considering the areas around the Eden Drive and Duval Island boat ramps, said county Aquatic Services director Tom Dick.

Sawyer described the lake chain's muck problem as a "pathetic, shameful situation," and he said the answer is not just muck removal, but a more aggressive aquatic weed control program.

"The people need these lakes," Sawyer said. "The aquifer needs these lakes."

In other commission news:

Neighbors oppose Beverly Hills complex. A standing-room-only crowd of Beverly Hills residents packed into commission chambers to speak out against a proposed 120-unit apartment complex planned for County Road 491 and Regina Boulevard.

Residents said the three-story apartment buildings, and the proposed 12,800-square-foot office strip, would further burden the limited water supplies and bring younger, more transient residents to Beverly Hills.

The County Commission will hold one more hearing, at 5:01 p.m. Feb. 27, before taking a final vote on the project.

La Croix picked as county attorney. Commissioner Vicki Phillips cast the deciding vote picking former Cape Coral City Attorney David La Croix for county attorney. La Croix, who recently moved to Sugarmill Woods, will replace Larry Haag, who retired from the post this month after two decades on the job.

The county's efforts to select a new county attorney stalled Feb. 6 when, with Phillips out sick, the remaining four commissioners split their votes between La Croix and Brooksville City Attorney Robert Battista.

Bartell and Commissioner Josh Wooten cast their ballots for La Croix, while commissioners Jim Fowler and Roger Batchelor voted for Battista.

Preserving growth management. The County Commission approved a resolution stating the county's opposition to a report produced by the Governor's Growth Management Study Commission, which proposes eliminating the state comprehensive plan and removing state Department of Community Affairs' oversight of local projects.

Bartell, who has attended several public hearings on the state report, said the county must oppose any measures that would remove growth management safeguards or weaken the oversight of projects that have a regional impact.

Bonner Lee issue rises to surface. At the suggestion of Acting County Attorney Carl Kern, the board agreed to ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to order the removal of the Bonner Lee, a derelict World War II submarine chaser that now rests on the shallow bottom of Kings Bay.

Kern said under state law, only Fish and Wildlife has the authority to order removal of a boat from a port. If the state declines to pursue the issue, Kern said, the county could charge the owner with maintaining a nuisance.

"Supermap" concept approved. Commissioners voted to move forward with a consultant's $4-million plan to create a Geographic Information System, or GIS, a computerized map that would blend together the information kept on different maps and data bases throughout the county.

The computerized map, which will take about five years to put together, will contain detailed information about each parcel, from its zoning and flood plain status to its proximity to water and sewer lines.

Proposed traffic signal gets green light. The board approved spending $9,330 to install a traffic signal at Rock Crusher Road and Venable Drive, the site of several fatal car accidents over the past three years. Officials say it may take several months to install the signal. In the meantime, the intersection has been turned into a four-way stop.

Properties on the block. Commissioners agreed to auction off most of the 32 acres acquired in the mid-1980s for a north-south road that was never built.

The county spent $880,535 a decade ago buying scattered land parcels along the path of the proposed West Citrus Traffic Reliever, a road that would have run parallel to U.S. 19 from Homosassa to Crystal River.

Officials shelved the project in 1987 to see what route the proposed Suncoast Parkway would take, and in the meantime, homes and golf courses have sprung up in parts of the West Citrus corridor.

Bartell said it is time for the county to get the taxpayer dollars out of those properties and put the land back on the tax rolls. The county will keep several properties, totaling about 10 acres, that are being used as satellite sites by various departments.

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