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Tarpon Springs commission slams Scott’s dredging funds veto
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_blankPhoto by KATHRYN WILLIAMS Governor Rick Scott vetoed close to 400 projects out of the next state budget, including funds that would have gone to the Anclote River dredging project
TARPON SPRINGS – The city of Tarpon Springs is looking to hit undelete on one of Gov. Rick Scott’s budget vetoes. Commissioner Rea Sieber called for an addendum to the June 6 City Commission agenda to discuss Scott’s veto of the Anclote River dredge project funding in the budget for the state’s 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

On Friday, June 2, the commissioners received word that the governor would use his veto power to remove close to $11.9 billion dollars from the coming state budget.

The governor’s line-item vetoes amounted to about 14 percent of the $82.4 billion budget, according to the Associated Press. This included cuts from the main state pool, which goes to public schools and the veto of around 400 projects advocated by both Republicans and Democrats, totally $410 million.

One of the these projects, was the long-pending Anclote River dredge project. The state funds would help pay for the spoils site for the dredged sediment.

Tarpon Springs commissioners took to Facebook to voice their anger over the veto.

“As many of you have heard the funding we requested to enable us to move forward with our dredging project of the Anclote River was vetoed by Governor Scott last Friday,” Sieber wrote in a Facebook post. “This project is crucial for the economy of our City and north Pinellas County. I have requested a discussion of this project be added to our BOC Agenda tomorrow night and the City is doing all it can to reach the Governor and ask him to reverse his veto.”

Commissioner David Banther, who had been excused from attending the June 6 meeting took to social media as well, thanking Sieber for acting and asking residents to call their local state lawmakers, Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

During the commission meeting, Sieber said the governor told Sprowls he wanted more funding for the economy and tourism.

However, Sieber said, a economic impact study completed last year had concluded the dredging of the river is necessary to develop the local economy and tourism.

The study showed that the Anclote River was the source of the city’s $252 million marine commerce industry. During the presentation of the study on Nov. 17, Phil Gonot of PMG Associates said the dredging could spur further growth.

“I talked to people who said if the river was dredged, they would put in a boat lift, and do large boat repair,” Gonot said during that meeting.

It does not seem as if they governor would reverse his veto, Sieber said.

Mayor Chris Alahouzos said he tried to contact the governor directly, and said he could not get a hold of him. He finally got his secretary to whom he explained the importance of the river.

“We’re not going to stop,” Alahouzos said.

Sieber agreed that though they should not stop fighting to push for the overturn of the veto, they should look at possibilities. She was informed by Sprowls that there may be some restructuring of the Department of Economic Opportunity funds.

“There may be a possibility of receiving funds from the DEO,” Sieber said.

Commissioner Banther, who pioneered the dredging project close to two years ago wrote a letter to be read during the meeting in his absence.

“I was very upset to hear about our budget deal…despite numerous assurances,” Banther wrote. “We must focus on different funding options.” Banther added that the city had learned a tough governmental lesson in that they need to have more of a lobbying role in the state.

City Manager Mark LeCouris said the project will not be stalled, and the city still has funds to maintain the rent on the spoils site until the come up with new funding.

“We had a plan in place if we didn’t get that funding,” LeCouris said.

A packet had been sent to the governor’s office that included a resolution, voted on by commissioners during the June 6 meeting, sent to Scott, Latvala and Sprowls. The resolution, 2017-4, explains the importance of the river and the necessity of the dredge citing impacts on commerce, tourism and shipping and public safety.

“The City of Tarpon Springs respectfully requests that the $920,973 allocated for the Anclote River Dredge Project that was included in the State of Florida Fiscal Year 2018 budget and was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott be restored to the State of Florida Fiscal Year 2018 Budget,” the resolution reads.
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