BROOKSVILLE — The city’s fire department might need a bigger building and more space, but it will have to wait, the City Council decided in its meeting Nov. 1.
The council approved a Capital Improvement Program on a 5-0 vote. But on legislative policy and project funding priorities, of the five requests most qualified for funding and requiring a 50% match by the city, some had to fall by the wayside. That’s because the city doesn’t have the matching money, and the money is not in the Capital Improvement Program, but they could be funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
City Manager Ron Snowberger said there were five projects that were most qualified for the funding. In order of importance, they were:
• Stormwater conveyance improvements at $625,000
• Critical facility power backup plan at $1.15 million
• Park infrastructure improvements at $451,000
• Fire department expansion at $800,000
• Providing reclaimed water to Hernando Oaks at $545,000.
If not funded by ARPA, Snowberger said, they would have to be funded by reserves.
“There’s no way that I will sit here tonight and approve all these projects,” said Mayor Pat Brayton.
He said that the city didn’t have $1.513 million for these projects, and they could borrow money or could tell the state they just made the list for “kicks and giggles.”
Council member Betty Erhard said she agreed and noted that maybe they should pick the top two projects on the list, and then asked Snowberger if there was any way to get grants.
He said the city had tried but had not been successful, but it was possible that the ARPA funds could be used for power backup, Hernando Oaks or stormwater work.
Council member Blake Bell said that maybe the work on the baseball stadium should take precedence before the Russell Street restrooms in the park infrastructure improvements line.
“We have to prioritize what is important right now,” Bell said.
Brayton said if he was to pick two projects, one would be the power backup project. The generators are needed for sewer plants, he said. But the problem with the park is the destruction of the restrooms.
Members talked about issues surrounding security and gates at the restrooms, and the next day a Sheriff’s Office report noted that someone had broken the water supply lines to the sinks and toilets in the men’s and women’s bathrooms at Tom Varn Park.
“We can’t afford to keep replacing fixtures in the bathrooms,” said Vice Mayor Robert Battista, noting that the vandalism happens when workers leave and it’s not acceptable. “We need to lock them at night, when we’re not there.”
Bell said that on the Russell Street issue, people were getting into the bathrooms even though they were locked at night.
Angie Whisnant, director of parks and recreation, said a grant has been submitted for restrooms in Tom Varn Park, but others in the park are “seriously lacking.”
As for the fire department, Brayton said he didn’t want to spend $800,000 on its building when he couldn’t get people to work in the Department of Public Works building because it’s falling apart, and they should look at it again.
A big part of the discussion was over how the money from the ARPA could be used, and whether they could use money from the state for stormwater.
Brayton said in conclusion that they’d go for the parks at $345,000 without security gates. His worry was that things could be approved when they don’t have the money to match.
Battista asked how much would be left in reserves, and said he wanted to see how much would be left in reserves at the Nov. 15 meeting.
Erhard said to have the city manager bring it all back with changes for a vote on Nov. 15.
In other action
• The council approved the purchase of a new garbage truck to replace one that has more than 300,000 miles on the odometer. The old truck will be kept as a backup in case another truck is down for maintenance.
• The council approved the purchase of a new Ford F-150 pickup truck for use by Community Development building officials, who have been using their personal vehicles.