Pasco projects win big in 2019 state budget

Gov. Rick Scott signed off on an $88.7 billion state budget for fiscal year 2019, and had a light touch with his veto pen.

He cut about $64 million in contrast to the $410 million that was axed from the previous year’s $82.4 billion budget.

Gov. Rick Scott

Pasco County got most of the items on its wish list, including $15 million for the Overpass Road interchange at Interstate 75, and $4.3 million for the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research and Education located at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center.

The city of Zephyrhills also will receive $1 million for the proposed Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center, $5.9 million for upgrades at the municipal airport, and $750,000 for a road study.

“They are a great boost to us in improving our area,” said Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina. “It’s very helpful. We’re just really pleased.”

Overall, Pasco County did much better in 2019 than 2018. Several projects that were cut previously made it safely through the budget process this year.

The new budget becomes effective July 1.

The redesigned Overpass Road interchange is a high priority for Pasco as part of an evolving road network to handle growth along the Connected City corridor. The 7,800 acres within the corridor’s district includes new developments, such as Epperson and Mirada. But, more residential and commercial projects are expected to bring new residents, and a more urbanized landscape to northeastern Pasco.

A monument sign was unveiled on May 12, 2017 at a dedication ceremony for the Adam Kennedy Forensics Field. The ‘body farm’ is part of a project to build a forensics research and training center next to Pasco County’s jail. Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a funding request for the project last year, but approved it this year. (File)

The forensic center is a joint venture with Pasco County, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco-Hernando State College and the University of South Florida’s Institute for Forensics and Applied Science.

Construction on the multi-building campus is expected to begin in late summer or early fall, according to Chase Daniels, assistant executive director at the sheriff’s office.

Research already is underway at the Adam Kennedy Forensic Field, also known as a body farm.

The city of Zephyrhills will receive funds for several projects, including the planned regional tennis center. A management company for the facility is in place.

The approximately $3.4 million project is in planning stages. The city’s city council was expected to approve a contract for the design at its meeting on March 26.

The funds for the airport will help pay for extending the runway, building an internal road and expanding hangar capacity.

A planning and engineering study will look at extending State Road 56 to U.S. 301, State Road 39 and Chancey Road.

“That would make it kind of a bypass,” said Spina.

The biggest loss in the governor’s veto items is the $4.7 million requested for the Morningside Drive extension in Dade City. Scott cut the funds, citing in a budget letter that the project didn’t go through proper evaluation protocol.

This rendering of the Zephyrhills Tennis Center shows 10 courts (eight clay, two hard surface), three mini-courts and one exhibition court. The tennis center is also expected to feature a pro shop, a multifunctional community room, and two office spaces. A second level, if added, will contain an observation deck, players lounge and concessions. (File)

It was one of a handful of road projects rejected for the same reason.

Officials with Bayfront Health Dade City are eager to see the extension built. Funding hasn’t been available through Dade City’s budget, so state funding was sought.

The project would link U.S. 301 to King Fort Road, where the hospital is located. Hospital officials have said the extension would improve access to the hospital’s campus.

State Rep. Danny Burgess said funding would be requested again for fiscal year 2020.

“It is a critical game-changer for the Dade City community,” said Burgess in a text message to The Laker/Lutz News.

Other Pasco County projects included in the 2019 budget are:

  • $1 million for a planning and engineering study for the U.S. 301/U.S. 98/Clinton Avenue intersection realignment.

The goal is to improve east-west traffic from I-75 to the west and Interstate 4 to the south.

  • $250,000 for the Veteran’s Alternative which aids veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury
  • $50,000 for AmSkills, a program that aids high school students, adults, and veterans seeking manufacturing jobs

Published March 28, 2018

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