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Citrus water quality projects get $1.75-million from state

The two projects still need a final vote by the Legislature and the governor's approval.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2001


The legislative conference committee in Tallahassee emerged with a proposed budget Monday that includes funding for both the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka water quality projects.

The proposed budget, which awaits a final vote by the Legislature and the governor's signature, provides $750,000 for Homosassa and $1-million for Chassahowitzka, said Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg.

The $1-million is a coup for the Chassahowitzka project, which was originally down for zero dollars in the early drafts of the state's 2001-2002 budget. The funding for the Homosassa project, on the other hand, is slightly down from the $1-million originally earmarked for it in the House of Representatives budget.

"It worked out," Cowin said by telephone late Monday afternoon. "We had a tough year but I think there was a good decision in the end."

County Commissioner Gary Bartell, who lobbied for both projects in his district, was pleased with the news but said it was too early to celebrate.

"I think it's fantastic that we got dollars in for both of those projects. It gives the county that much more leverage to fund future projects, and I'm very appreciative and elated," he said. "But there are four more days of the session, and we've got to make sure those dollars are not raided."

He pointed to the Chassahowitzka project. The county requested $3.12-million for that wastewater system but received nothing in early budget drafts. The project emerged Monday from negotiations with $1-million that had been earmarked for another project.

"That means some other project is going to be out looking for who got their money," Bartell said. "That's why we've got to protect it from the raid."

Bartell said he planned to travel to Tallahassee late Monday or early today to spend the rest of the week pressing lawmakers to keep the funding for the Citrus County projects.

The proposed budget was being printed late Monday, and Cowin said the final version would be up for a vote near the end of the week. The budget would then go to Gov. Jeb Bush, who has the power to veto select items.

"These appropriations we have could go by the wayside if the governor decides to veto them," Cowin said.

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