Originally published November 29, 2006
County works to secure funding
Local officials negotiate with lobbyists yearly

By Jeff Burlew

Leon County's legislative wish list for 2007 includes millions of dollars for Mahan Drive widening, a new emergency-dispatch building and a new primary-health clinic in Frenchtown.


Each year, the county works with lobbyists to try to secure funding for projects. The county also keeps a cautious eye on proposed legislation that could affect its budget.


One of the county's biggest priorities is widening Mahan to four lanes from Dempsey Mayo Drive to Interstate 10. Although the county and Blueprint 2000 have pledged nearly $17 million, officials are hoping that the state and federal governments will cover the $40 million project.


Also, the county is seeking $3 million from the federal government for a new building for Neighborhood Health Services in Frenchtown. The clinic serves the uninsured and homeless. Meg Beitler, a Neighborhood Health board member, said the clinic needs more exam rooms, a conference room and other modern amenities.


"It would be wonderful," she said. "The space is greatly needed."


The county is trying to get $15 million for the dispatch building, which would house dispatchers with the city of Tallahassee and the county. Currently, they work in separate offices. And the county is hoping to get $8 million to help widen Capital Circle Southeast from Woodville Highway to Tram Road.


Other funding requests include $2.1 million for a new Emergency Medical Services building to replace mobile homes currently used; $4.5 million for the Lake Jackson ecopassage, which would help wildlife cross North Monroe Street; $750,000 for a new Lake Jackson stormwater pond and $300,000 to design a sewer system for about 1,400 homes in Woodville.


Other legislative concerns include proposed property-tax reforms. Commissioner Cliff Thaell and other county officials are worried about a proposal to double the homestead exemption to $50,000, which he said would take a $10 million chunk out of the county budget.


Thaell said that could affect the county's ability to provide essential services from the jail to libraries. Legislators also could file bills to provide tax relief to commercial property owners. Commissioners are meeting this week in Destin for the Florida Association of Counties' annual legislative conference, and property-tax issues top the agenda.

Contact reporter Jeff Burlew at (850) 599-2180 or jburlew@tallahassee.com.