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Friday, November 19, 2021

Marion County Board of Commissioners lists legislative priorities for 2022

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners identified the county’s legislative priorities for 2022 in a recent letter submitted to Senator Jennifer Bradley.

In the letter from Marion County Commission Chairman Jeff Gold, the board says that the legislative actions listed below are critical to support veterans, remove tax roadblocks, protect our water resources, promote the economic vitality of the state and county, and aid other local efforts.

Build a nursing home for veterans in Marion County: The board views Marion County’s central location as a unique opportunity to directly impact more than 650,000 veterans. A little under half of those veterans are over the age of 65.

In 2019, the state legislature approved $500,000 in funding to support and assist in finding a site for the nursing home. The ideal site was identified, and the board requests $6 million in funding to begin the design and construction phase of the nursing home.

Develop a protected pedestrian lane on Dunnellon Trail: The board seeks the addition of a protected pedestrian lane on the existing bridge over the Rainbow River at Blue Run of Dunnellon Park. This lane would allow for visitors to have a safe walkway, and it would allow users of the Heart of Florida Loop Shared-Use Trail to have access into downtown Dunnellon.

The city of Dunnellon commissioned a master pedestrian plan to develop an access system consisting of a 12-foot bicycle/pedestrian trail along the road, and pedestrian crossings to connect trail users to businesses. The board requests around $2.5 million to fund both connection projects.

Acquire and restore property at Ocklawaha Groves: The Ocklawaha Groves property is nearly 66 acres, including citrus operations and nearly 2,300 feet of undisturbed wetland and freshwater marshes along the shore of Lake Weir. The land is zoned for agricultural uses and has been up for sale.

The board is requesting around $3.6 million to secure land at the Ocklawaha Groves, with the goal of assuming management, restoring the property, and introducing more recreational opportunities to those offered at nearby Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area.

Extend centralized water system into Lowell to provide clean drinking water: The Lowell area includes the Florida State Fire College, which has an onsite contamination with its groundwater and soil.

Marion County has a concept plan to extend a centralized water system into the Lowell area, which would provide clean drinking water to the residents of that area. The board is requesting around $5.7 million to fund the cost of design, permitting, and construction of approximately 35,500 feet of water line extension with valves, fire hydrants, and a water booster station.

The board also submitted the following statewide initiatives for consideration:

Request to support Florida Building Code: Currently, due to 2019 legislation that was passed, the local government is unable to carry funds for enforcing the Florida Building Code that exceed a four-year average of its operating budget.

The county is seeking support to modify Florida Statute 553.80(7)(a) to clarify the ability to carry funds associated with outstanding inspections beyond the average of the four-year fiscal year’s operating budget.

Request for county consent to provide utility services: The board requests legislation that states a municipality may not provide utility services within county service areas without first receiving the county’s consent.

Marion county wants this to be effective in areas where the county has, by ordinance, established one or more utility service areas in an unincorporated area, and where the county has the current ability to provide service.

Request for 911 fee increase: The board seeks support to increase the 911 fee in Florida to $0.80.

Marion County states that they currently fund 57% of the cost of 911 services in the county. The increase in fee would lead to county savings, and the county states that those funds could then be applied toward housing, roadways, law enforcement, school safety, or social services.

Request for taxation reform – transportation: Marion County states that they have an annual shortfall of around $10 million for capital maintenance projects and a backlog of $300 million for local transportation capacity projects.

The board requests support to modify existing laws to allow for a transportation sales surtax for non-charter counties. According to the county, this will provide a revenue source to help fund capital projects.

Request for taxation reform – discretionary sales surtax: The board also requests support to modify existing laws for a discretionary sales surtax to be used for general purposes, including operational funding to help reduce the ad valorem tax on property owners who, according to the county, are burdened with the largest share of taxation under the current tax structure.