Routine transit meeting gets testy

04/15/10 Kate Bradshaw
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The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners held its third and final workshop today to iron out a few details of a massive transit overhaul that will likely go on the November ballot. But while they focused on the plan’s blander aspects, politics still found its way in.

For the most part, the commissioners and county staff talked about some changes they are making to the current draft of the interlocal agreement. Public Works Department Director Bob Gordon explained the role of this document within the greater scheme of transit.

The one major change to the document, which is an agreement between Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City, had to do with developer-funded projects. Gordon said that developers whose projects would significantly boost the density of an area had to foot part of the bill for projects like widening roads in the area.

If the local government wanted to start sooner than the developer was able, it would have paid on the promise that the developer would reimburse it. Gordon said the county jettisoned that provision from the document.

Developers, he said, will now be on their own.

While the county has already run a fine-toothed comb through the interlocal agreement, that document will mean nothing if voters don’t adopt a penny sales tax to fund transit projects ranging from road widening to construction of a light rail system. From the get-go, Commissioner Jim Norman has been a staunch opponent of the idea. Today being tax day, he didn’t hold back.

Commission Chair Ken Hagan said that the county is merely asking the public what it wants.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner agreed, and asked when is there ever a perfect time for such a massive undertaking?

Norman said commissioners support getting the penny tax on the ballot only do so because they support the tax itself. Hagan scoffed at the notion.

After nearly ten minutes, Hagan said, quote, “enough of that nonsense” and adjourned the meeting. The next step is a Commission vote on the interlocal agreement, since two commissioners Rose Ferlita and Mark Sharpe were absent from the workshop. They’ll likely vote at their April 21st meeting. A public hearing on the subject is tentatively scheduled for the evening of May 13.

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