Gov. Rick Scott signed a $77 billion dollar state budget Monday that includes $1 million to widen County Road 466A to four lanes from U.S. 27 west to the Sumter County line.
Once constructed, the road will run past the 987-acre Pine Ridge Dairy Tract where The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. plans a 2,038-home development.
The 3.05-mile 466A widening project will be done in three phases: Phase one will span from Sunny Court to US 27; phase two will cover 1.8 miles, from the Sumter County line to Cutoff Road and phase three will cover 0.8 miles, from Marguerite Avenue to Sunny Court.
The project is estimated to cost $25 million.
Fred Schneider, Lake County engineer, said the funding from the state will help the county acquire the final right of way for phase three of the project.
This is one of several projects allocated in the governor’s budget, which Florida Tax Watch called budget “turkeys” that should be vetoed because they were not vetted through the normal legislative process., said Kurt Wenner, Tax Watch’s vice president.
The governor also allocated $3 million for construction of a new science lab at the south Lake campus of Lake-Sumter State College to jump start a magnet school for the highest performing students in south Lake.
Tax Watch reportedly opposed the funding because “it was not on the Florida College Three-year Public Education Priority List.”
LSSC President Charles Mojock was thrilled after the governor approved funding for the science lab and expressed appreciation for the support.
“As health care continues to grow as an economic driver for Lake County, the new science lab facility will help us better prepare students for careers in the health care and STEM fields,” he said in a phone interview.
Lake-Sumter State College, South Lake Hospital, the Lake County School District and University of Central Florida have come together and will give final approval soon to the school. It would serve 100 high-performing students in the ninth grade, who would take two years of advanced placement classes, followed by dual-enrollment at LSSC and two years at the University of Central Florida.
“This definitely gives us a big boost that we can have confidence in moving forward with our program knowing we will be able to start working on the planning of the facility,” Mojock said.
Also Monday, the governor approved funding for five Baker Act patient beds. This was also identified by Tax Watch as a budget turkey.
Since 2004 Lifestream Behavioral Center has not received funding from the state.
The Florida Mental Health Act, which is known as the Baker Act, allows “legal procedures for the mental health examination and treatment” of those determined to be dangerous to themselves or others, according to the state and Jon Cherry, chief executive officer of Lifestream.
While approving $88.5 million statewide for water projects, Scott included $300,000 to fund a study of alternative water supplies for south Lake County. This project was not identified by Tax Watch as a turkey.
There will be a demand for an additional 300 million gallons of water a day in 2035, but the Floridan Aquifer, the current traditional source, will be able to provide only about 50 million gallons, according to water experts.
The municipalities of Groveland, Mascotte, Clermont and Montverde recently agreed to share in the cost of a consultant to address the issue in the south part of the county.
Those municipalities are all part of the South Lake Regional Water Initiative, which also includes the South Lake Chamber of Commerce and the county.
In particular, the municipalities will no longer have to foot the major costs of the study, according to Alan Oyler, who represents the SLRWI.
“If everything works out the way we hope it does, the only out of pocket expenses for the communities would be the cost of project management,” Oyler said.
Moreover, the funding will move up the timeline by three months for putting out a request for proposal to hire a consultant for the study, Oyler said.
Working in conjunction with the Central Florida Water Initiative, which is developing a unified process to address Central Florida’s current long-term water supply needs, SLRWI addresses “regional solutions in the areas of reclaimed water distribution, minimum flows and levels of the region’s lakes and rivers, and alternative water supplies and conservation.”
Groveland Mayor Tim Loucks, who founded the SLRWI along with Commissioner Sean Parks, was elated Monday afternoon upon learning the news.
“This particular appropriation from the state of Florida shows what can be accomplished when you have five cities and the county all working for the same purpose such as the case of the SLRWI,” he said.