Danedri Thompson
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Now that residents are making a splash at the newly-opened Spring Hill Aquatic Center, city council members are turning their attention to the second project to be funded by the half-cent parks sales tax – West Lake Park.
Spring Hill voters approved a half-cent sales tax in November  2008 specifically to build the new aquatic center and improve a park near Spring Hill Lake that was closed when Sycamore Golf Course was built.
“I think we’ve all heard from constituents that have said, OK, where’s the part of the project I voted for,” council president Steven Ellis said.
Jonathan Roberts, city administrator, told council members city staff is working to purchase approximately 15 acres near the golf course for a new park which would include boat docks, a dog park and walking trails.
Roberts said the most challenging part of the project is the details that will need to be worked out before construction begins.
“Construction of a project like this is easy and quick,” Roberts said. “The most complicated part on this project is paperwork.”
One of the biggest hurdles, he told the council, is that the 15 acres is landlocked with the golf course and 100 acres owned by a development company surrounding it.
City staff is working with the developer that owns 100 acres that neighbor the property to create access to the park and so the park project is mutually beneficial.
Originally, the developer planned to create a large-lot development with approximately 20 homes. The large-lots would not need access to the sewer.
However, Roberts explained, the marketability of large lots is low with today’s economic conditions. And a park might be a detriment to higher-scale properties.
Roberts said the developer would like to increase density.
“The latest discussion involves working out the possibility of putting sewer to the property,” Roberts said.
Preliminary estimates suggest that sewer project could cost $400,000.
Roberts said the debt for that sewer project would be borne fully by the 100 acres in the form of a benefit district.
In the meantime, Roberts said, city staff is in negotiations to purchase the park land, but is in no hurry to close on the deal until the other details are ironed out.
“I’d like to see us move forward at a little faster clip,” council member Chris Leaton said.
Council President Ellis reminded city staff and council that the golf course, from which the council will purchase the land, still owes the city money.
Mayor Mark Squire said he’s anxious to see the project completed.
“I’d love to see this project out there, because I’m more likely to get out there than take my white chicken legs to the pool,” Squire said.
In other business, the council:
• discussed a possible partnership with the Drug Enforcement Agency. The partnership would require one Spring Hill Police officer to work with the DEA with wages paid by the city. In return, the police department would receive a portion of proceeds from seized assets.
“I have a great affinity for this,” Ellis said. “I know it’s largely a budget issue.”
Ellis said the opportunity may stem the high turnover rate in the police department.
The partnership would cost the city approximately $43,000.
“There really isn’t $43,000 to spend,” Roberts said.
City officials decided they would not consider a partnership with the DEA this year due to fiscal constraints, however they may discuss the issue in future budget years.
• approved an ordinance that will allow the sale and use of fireworks within Spring Hill city limits. Fireworks can be sold within city limits from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 27 to July 3. A $1,000 sales permit must be acquired to sell fireworks.
• approved a conditional-use permit for Newcome Trucking to store work vehicles on residential property.