Great news from Levy County, whose commissioners officially tell the State of Florida that they do not want the toll roads in their county. The “no build” option has never been presented to the task force by the state as a possible outcome.
Quite the contrary.
Since the inception of the public presentations in Tampa, the state has presented the project as if it were already established and saying no would be unthinkable. The atmosphere was one of “this is so super great we can’t wait to get it done, we’ve got to hurry and ramrod it through.”
Sitting through the public meetings and hearing the propaganda spewed by the state’s speakers reminded one of used car salesmen at their best.
Road builders and developers stand to become rich from this project. The richest man in Florida would become much richer, as he wants to build a city in Taylor County where the road would run. Florida would become much poorer, as concrete and strip malls would cover the land. Traffic and pollution would increase and lower the quality of life as our rural areas disappear.
So thank you Levy County, as you have the wisdom and the courage to say no to Mr. Bill Galvano and his cronies who want to hasten the destruction of Florida. We predict that other counties will also follow suit and tell our greedy leaders to back off.
Galvano is not the first to try this, it has been presented before and defeated because it is a horrible plan, designed to make a few people rich at the expense of many. The people will not be fooled.
Note, at the time of this writing, the Levy County government website had not posted the following article, as implied by the last sentence. Our reposting was from a FaceBook post by toll roads task force member Charles Lee.
Levy County Commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 to approve a resolution that declared the board doesn’t want a toll road built through this county.
Commissioner Lilly Rooks won the support of Commissioners Mike Joyner and John Meeks for passage of her “no build” resolution. Commissioners Rock Meeks and Matt Brooks, who sit on toll road task force groups, asked for more time to finish their work. They voted against the motion.
Commissioner John Meeks warned that the road project is far from dead in Levy County. He said a state map shows the Northern Turnpike Connector and the Suncoast Connector intersecting in Levy County. He described Citrus County and Levy County as “clearly the lynchpins” of both toll roads.
“No matter what we say and sit up here and do it’s going to come. They’re going to railroad this in the Legislature and it’s going to come and they’re going to make it happen. That being said, I’m going to vote my heart today and regret it tomorrow,” Meeks said.
Meeks reserved the right to bring the issue back for consideration at a later date. He said Roberts Rules of Order would allow him to ask for reconsideration if he is on the prevailing side. He was on the prevailing side.
Two weeks ago, the board voted to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation stating that it wanted to see no impacts to Goethe State Forest from toll road construction. Board Chairman Matt Brooks asked how much weight the letter would carry with DOT in protecting the forest.
“Can I tell you will it be impacted?” asked Ryan Asmus, DOT roadway design engineer.
“Is that a consideration?” asked Brooks.
“Absolutely, it’s a consideration,” said Asmus. “That will be brought back to the task force to be incorporated into the guiding principles.”
Brooks said the lack of a specific toll road alignment is what bothers the Levy County residents that talk to him.
“The big concern I hear from people, it’s all about alignment. It’s all about where the line is going to be on the map. Without that information, everybody wants to drop the hammer and just say no right now.” He said.
Rosemary Woods of the Atkins company, a consultant for the toll road studies, said it’s too early in the process to identify specific routes. The Suncoast Connector Task Force and Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force are in the pre-study phase. DOT won’t begin looking at specific alignments until both task force groups meet five more times to gather public input.
She said the Project Development and Engineering portion of the two projects will begin after the task force groups complete their work. The PD&E is where the state will narrow the study area to a series of proposed alignments. Woods said PD&E would have been the best time for the county commission to push for a “no build” alternative if that’s what the board wanted.
But Rooks wanted to act immediately.
“It’s going to change Levy County. I don’t want to see Levy County become another Tampa Bay and that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t stand up and say no,” Rooks said.
She said it’s already a 90 minute drive from Cedar Key to Gainesville and then Cedar Key residents have to fight the Gainesville traffic when going to the hospital. She figures the long drive to Gainesville, whether it’s in an ambulance or a personal vehicle will get longer if the toll road is built through Levy County.
In 1986 she said she lost a dear friend because there was no ambulance service in Cedar Key. She and a couple of friends trained to be Emergency Medical Technicians and raised money for an ambulance. The county then hired two of the EMTs to operate the ambulance. She sees the same scenario playing out when the toll road is constructed. She predicted more accidents and a longer drive to Gainesville to seek emergency medical services.
Commissioner Mike Joyner was as determined as Rooks to pass the “no build” option. He wanted to send the resolution to Tallahassee as a statement of the board’s opposition to the toll road.
“I’m here to speak for the people of my county and what they want. I’m not here to satisfy everybody. I’m here to do what’s right. The people of this county do not want this road. They have voiced their opinion. I’m here to speak for them because there’s a lot of opposition,” Joyner said. “If they want a no build, I want it for them.”
“I think it’s time to stand up for the people,” she added.
Brooks and Commissioner Rock Meeks wanted to hold off on considering the “no build” alternative until the two task force groups completed their work and more information was known about the two toll roads.
Woods said it would take time to complete the two project studies, but Brooks responded that everything he has been hearing, and the public has been hearing, is that construction would begin in two years.
“It feels like it is being rushed. When you say it takes time, the public hears this is going to construction in two years. When you say it takes time, it’s conflicting with our information that everybody thinks is going to happen in two years,” Brooks said.
Commissioner Rock Meeks said he accepted the challenge of sitting through long task force meetings. He said he is not a quitter by nature, but at the same time, if the board voted to adopt the “no built” option, he saw no point in continuing to serve on the North Florida Connector Task Force.
“The pleasure of this board would be we don’t want a road at the end of the day,” he said.
He suggested the board wait until after the task forces had completed their work before voting on the “no build” option.
But Rooks and Joyner wanted to act immediately.
Photo by Terry Witt: Commissioner Lilly Rooks insisted adopting the “no build” resolution.
Board of County Commission Regular Meeting April 7, 2020
Posted April 7, 2020