Sparks fly over new power lines

05/07/08 Seán Kinane
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Among the items the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners considered today, was concern by Commissioners about the routing of new electric lines by Progress Energy.

Commissioner Jim Norman is worried that the electric lines could be routed through Hillsborough neighborhoods, even though much of the energy would be provided to Pasco County.

But Commissioner Rose Ferlita said that since the electric line route was not known, it is too early to get upset about what it could be.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said that even though no one wants power lines running through their neighborhood, the county should concentrate on upgrading its aging infrastructure, including the power grid.

The Commission received letters from several concerned members of the community, including some they described as influential. Commissioner Kevin White, who represents the economically depressed area of East Tampa, said that who is affected should not be an issue.

Rose Ferlita offered a substitute motion to be kept informed about the power lines and maintain a dialog with Progress Energy. After Ferlita’s substitute motion failed 5-2, with only Sharpe joining her, she voted to support the original motion by Jim Norman.

Norman’s motion passed, 6-1; Sharpe was the lone dissenter. County Commissioners also received an update on Hillsborough’s visioning process from the county’s officer for Strategic Management Initiatives, Lucia Garsys. Garsys attempted to distance the county’s visioning process from claims that there is not enough citizen input and too much input from the One Bay group. One Bay’s director resigned in April because of her ties to south Hillsborough landowners and her employment by a powerful lobbying firm. Since the resignation, some media reports have emphasized the business ties of One Bay.

The Commission unanimously granted Garsys’ request for more time before the proposed conceptual visioning plan is submitted.

The Commission also waived $25,000 in impact fees for the Kids Charity of Tampa Bay that is building a new shelter in the Lithia-Pinecrest area. That is the maximum amount that can be waived. Commissioner Jim Norman. The Commission directed staff to look for ways to waive the project’s entire $170,000 in impact fees. The county will have to pay any impact fees that are waived.

The County Commission also considered a hospital bond application from University Community Hospital for up to $275-million in Healthcare Facilities Revenue Bond Financing. Mike Merrell, director of the county’s debt management department, said the type of bond the hospital needs would normally be issued at a higher interest rate but they agreed on an alternate plan.

The plan was unanimously approved by commissioners after being assured that it does not expose the county to any financial risk. In another agenda item, Daniel Pohto, director of County Audit, told the Commission about inconsistencies in an audit of the county’s dealings with Humana Insurance Co. Some county employees have been getting overcharged by some pharmacies when they purchased prescriptions.

Several Commissioners suggested educating county employees to ask pharmacists if the costs of their prescriptions could be lower than the co-pay amount. The next Hillsborough County Commission meeting is May 21.

Learn more:

Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners

Strategic Management Initiatives Officer

Kids Charity of Tampa Bay

2050 Visioning Plan

Clerk of the Circuit Court, Hillsborough County

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