County lists projects that a 20-year penny sales tax renewal would cover

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Posted March 13, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

Marion County has a big wish list, one that officials hope voters will help them pay for by approving a 20-year renewal for the penny sales tax in the general election.

Officials have finalized the transportation and public safety projects they hope to accomplish with the $65 million per year that the sales tax is expected to raise. County commissioners wrapped up their planning with a workshop on March 5 to review the complete project list for sheriff, fire, emergency medical services and communications.

If voters approve renewing the sales tax in the November general election, this project list will serve as the general guide for how the revenue will be spent, but it can be adjusted as necessary, said County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes.

All of the project costs are based on the value of today’s dollar and do not include any adjustments to inflation or growth. The projects will be reviewed annually through the budget service to ensure accurate numbers to costs and funding.

Out of the total sales tax revenue of $1.3 billion for the next 20 years, 20% will be devoted to public safety, split between the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Marion County Fire Rescue. Much of that money will be spent on new vehicles.

“For public safety, we’re going to be replacing vehicles and equipment,” Bouyounes said. “That’s probably going to be the top priority for all of them.”

Over the next 20 years, MCFR will need over $24.8 million to replace 13 engines, 12 grass trucks, one tower, two heavy rescues, 10 tankers and 24 staff vehicles. EMS needs to replace 67 rescue vehicles, which would cost about $30.1 million.

MCSO will need nearly $55 million to replace 48 vehicles for the jail department, 68 vehicles for the regular department, 747 vehicles for the patrol department and three vehicles for the bailiff department.

Other funds will be used to remodel aging facilities and build new ones. Fire rescue needs to remodel Stations 1, 10, 12, 15, 19 and 22, which will cost about $6 million, at $1 million per renovation. Phase 2 of the fire rescue training facility would also be funded by the penny sales tax, and cost $15 million.

EMS will need two new stations, one on the west side and another on the east side of Ocala, costing $5.3 million each. Modular stations will be placed in Pedro, Ocklawaha, Baldwin Ranch and Westport and cost $450,000 each.

“With the new EMS modular stations, those most likely will be also fire stations,” Bouyounessaid. “We are proposing we start with a module arrangement and then we expand them in the future as needed.”

Public safety communication officials need to build towers to replace eight leased towers, which would cost $1 million each. The towers at Forest, Baseline and MCSO all need replacing as they are all over 30 years old, which will cost $500,000 each.

A new animal services center is estimated to cost about $20.4 million.

The sheriff’s facility needs will include major renovations to the jail, including improving the medical area for $2.5 million in addition to new district offices for the patrol division in Marion Oaks, Forest, Shores and the southwest area, costing $4.5 million each.

The sheriff will also need $2.5 million in funding for Phase 2 of its aviation hangar, $2.5 million for a facilities workshop, $5.5 million to expand and renovate the fleet building, $5 million for a new emergency operations warehouse, $5.25 million for a special operations warehouse, $10 million for a new building for operations expansion, and $5 million to repave the sheriff complex.

Funding would also be allocated to purchase a new helicopter for the sheriff’s office, which would cost $4.6 million.

The majority of the other projects that need funding are to purchase new and replace old equipment across all areas of MCSO, MCFR, EMS and communications.

“We just replaced a bunch of our radios for the first responders and the sheriff’s frontline (for emergency operations),” Bouyounes said. “During that 20-year time frame, we’re going to have to replace them again and the estimated cost is about $16.5 million.”

Transportation projects in total will take up 70% of the sales tax revenue, at an estimated cost of $962 million. Notable road projects which the county hopes to partially fund through the sales include the Interstate 75 interchange, a new traffic management center and the bridge replacement at I-75 and County Road 484.

“You have included here on the project list a new traffic management center, which has been discussed a few times in the past,” Bouyounes said. “To start looking at the southwest/northeast corridor, that it’s going to be a huge project for the county to undertake, and I think it will have a major impact on how we move traffic around.”

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