Progress impact on park pondered

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Whispering Pines a concern for Inverness

By Nancy Kennedy

INVERNESS — The sky is falling, but not on the city of Inverness.

That was the message Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni gave to members of the city council Tuesday concerning the Duke Energy tax shortfall and its impact of the city.

“We don’t participate greatly in the $35.6 million tax bill, so it doesn’t impact us greatly,” DiGiovanni said. “The things that are taxed within the city are the properties owned by Progress Energy — the poles, transmission lines, the property at Independence and 44 West …  the amount that will impact the city of Inverness on our receivables is about $19,000.

“That’s not a lot, but we don’t want to lose it, either,” he said. “As a city, we are fiscally stable. The majority of the impact goes around this municipal government.”

The one area that could impact the city in a major way is the yearly $300,000 the county contributes toward the operating costs of Whispering Pines Park.

In fiscal year 2010-11, the county paid the city $300,000, which was $70,000 less than they had previously contributed. 

The county paid $300,000 for fiscal year 2011-12, said Tom Dick, Inverness assistant city manager.

The total annual operating budget for Whispering Pines Park is $690,222.

“The city pays the lion’s share to operate the park,” DiGiovanni said, “even though 90 percent of the park’s users come from outside the city.”

Citrus County Commissioner Scott Adams brought up the topic of Whispering Pines Park at the commission meeting Tuesday after a proposal to fund a linear park in Crystal River.

Adams told a reporter Wednesday his concern is the county treats the city of Inverness and the city of Crystal River equally when it comes to funding the parks.

“My concern — why  would we cut funds to the city of Inverness when we’ve made the proposal to spend money on a park in Crystal River? I want to see both cities helped evenly.”

As for cutting funding to Whispering Pines, that has yet to be decided.

“There are plenty of areas where we can tighten our belt to get to where we’ve got to get without having to scare everybody half to death,” Adams said. “I think us being 50-50 with both cities in treating them the same and working with them is what we need to do.”

DiGiovanni said no matter what the outcome is, the city will deal with it.

“If they do not pay — this city has always looked to the future and we will look at ways to make things happen … We’ll figure something out. It may not be as comfortable as it is now, but the bottom line is, I don’t see the park going away or the city recoiling.”

Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy can be reached at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2927.