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Spring Hill group gets questions, not funds

Residents looking into the idea of turning Spring Hill into a city asks for money, but the county wants answers first.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


SPRING HILL -- Leaders of the Spring Hill Incorporation Committee met Monday with county officials and asked for $35,000 to finance a study that would determine the feasibility of turning the community into a city.

But instead of a check, they took away a to-do list.

For starters, they need to prove to the County Commission that there is widespread support for the plan beyond the group's membership, which hovers around a dozen.

Next, they need to flesh out what services the community might gain by incorporating.

"Each commissioner has to be able to justify spending county money on an issue that only involves Spring Hill," said incorporation committee vice chairman Jim McLaughlin, who is also president of the Spring Hill Civic Association.

McLaughlin said he and committee chairman Bill Fagan met individually Monday with County Commissioners Bobbi Mills and Pat Novy after a joint meeting with commission Chairman Paul Sullivan, County Administrator Paul McIntosh and County Attorney Garth Coller.

The outcome, McLaughlin said, was much the same in each meeting.

"Questions were asked on both sides, and we have to come up with the answers," he said. "It's just making us stop and analyze where we are right now."

Sullivan said he would be reluctant to spend tax dollars without more information.

"They couldn't give us justification," he said. "Why should you do a feasibility study unless you know that a significant percentage of the community wants it?"

Sullivan questioned the benefits of incorporation and dismissed the argument that Spring Hill does not get its fair share of county services measured against tax dollars.

"If you spoke to the people on the east side of the county or in the center of the county, they would say that Spring Hill gets everything," he said, adding that Spring Hill has the majority of the county's parks, schools and paved roads. "I think Spring Hill is paying a lot of taxes, but they're also getting a lot of services for their dollars."

Fagan called the meetings enlightening. He said McIntosh and Coller suggested the group explore options other than incorporation.

Fagan and McLaughlin plan to meet with Coller next week to discuss alternatives.

"We might not have to go with a city to get things accomplished," Fagan said. "This group could go in a number of different directions."

McLaughlin said the meetings represented the beginning of a new conversation with the county on the issue, which has been defeated twice at the polls.

"We definitely didn't take away any money, but we got a better understanding of incorporation, what it's all about," he said. "We knew it would be an uphill struggle. . . . We've just got to find out why we want to do this and how."

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