The big "DIG OUT" project, started in early March, on the pond behind the swimming pool is complete. There should be fewer weeds and the water level should be deeper when the rainy season fills the pond. The revamped banks have been seeded and are also waiting for rain as we are still in a severe drought. On the downside, when the rains do come, it will signal the start of the grass mowing season.

Even Betmar Creek was dug out.

As it looks now while we wait for rain.

A new air conditioner (on the right) was installed at Clubhouse 3.

The old Marathon gas station at the corner of Geiger Rd. and Eiland Blvd. is getting new underground gas tanks and will become a "7- Eleven" gas station.

There was a house fire at 5302 Mohawk St...... one was injured but the coach is a total loss.

At 3:00 AM last Saturday morning, a water line burst near the four outside air conditioners at clubhouse #2. Properties applied a temporary fix as our first "Ice Cream Social" was due to start at 1:00 PM. The event went well and I will have pics in the next "Dirt " issue.

And yes, we do need rain. Casualties at the clubhouse #2 pond. The smell was nothing short of invigorating!!

Rural King Due In Zephyrhills

Simpson Environmental Services employees work last Tuesday at the future site of the Rural King Supply Store on Gall Boulevard. A July 17 opening is planned. Supply Store Going Into Former Kmart Site

Rural King Supply has announced plans to open a store in mid July inside the former Kmart in the Town View Square.

The company will employ between 75 and 80 full and part-time workers for the retail operation and will be using local electricians, plumbers and demolition workers to refurbish the 85,000-square-foot storefront.

Rural King spent about a year planning its move to 7422 Gall Blvd., which will be its 101st store in the country and the eighth in Florida, according to Brian Hutchins, the company's vice president of Business and Development.

"We're excited about the Zephyrhills store pushing us over the 100 mark," he said. "We will be bringing several millions of dollars of retail sales to the


The demographics of Zephyrhills attracted Rural King to the area, Hutchins said.

"We are a farm and home store and we depend a lot on agricultural and rural customers. We have food items, lawn and garden items and pet food so we feel we have a lot to offer everybody," he said.

Rural King also carries hardware and automotive items, tools, sporting goods, housewares, clothing, footwear, toys and domestic items according to the company's website.

"There's a lot of business out there for all of us," Hutchins said regarding other retail stores that Rural King will be competing against, most notably TSC Tractor Supply across the street at 7431 Gall Blvd.

The Mattoon, Ill.-based company aims to open the Zephyrhills store as well as new stores in Ocala and Gainesville on July 17, with an eye on setting up more stores in the Sunshine State.


New Venue Going Into Old Bank Building

This conceptual drawing that was created a few years back shows the original design for the building. It will still have the same "French quarter feel" but the location of the patio doors have been changed and a walk up service area has been added.

The entrance to downtown's Main Street from Gall Boulevard is getting a new addition. Rather than the hulking empty building at 38421 Fifth Ave. greeting merchants and visitors, something much more lively will soon be taking its place. Zephyrhills residents Jodie Biston- Rogers, Melissa Swanstrom and a third, silent partner have been thinking about opening up a downtown hot spot for years. After considering several locations the team decided to purchase the old bank building from Biston-Rogers' father.

After starting reconstruction in mid- February, a two-story live entertainment venue, bar and lounge is projected to be finished around December. Cougars On Fifth is the name of the game for the upscale lounge designed to have a French Quarter/Ybor City vibe. "To me it's going to fill a big void in Zephyrhills. I'm hoping it will help boost the downtown activities," Biston-Rogers said. "We've envisioned this for a while and thought Zephyrhills needed something like this … restaurants in that area that don't get enough foot traffic. People don't think of coming to Zephyrhills for a full night."

The bar will operate with a full liquor license, but will not serve food in order to try to help steer business to already established downtown restaurants. Biston- Rogers said she hopes with the addition of Cougars, more people will consider visiting Zephyrhills for a full day of shopping, eating and evening entertainment. "I hope we can all work together to boost Zephyrhills and bring people to the area to see what we have to offer," she said.

Cougars' addition to Main Street will make for four establishments serving alcohol along the downtown strip with Manolo's, 4/1 Gentlemens Quarters and Zephyrhills Brewing Company. Biston- Rogers said she was a little worried she might be met with some resentment for that fact, but that overall everyone has been supportive and excited. "Members of the community are excited to see something happening downtown," she said.

The management team plans to organize several activities for the business, including live concerts, line dancing nights, and making the venue space available for local organizations and groups to hold events. Originally built in 1972, the 10,000 square foot building's previous tenants have been a slew of different banks throughout the years.

In the downstairs area, 5,000 square feet will serve as a live music venue, and will probably remain open only on weekend nights or for special events. Upstairs, 600 square feet were gutted in order to make a balcony to overlook Fifth Avenue as well as the venue and stage inside. The upstairs sports bar area will be open "all the time." Biston-Rogers and Swanstrom do not want to commit to hosting a specific genre of live music – they are open to all forms and want to provide a space for what the people of Zephyrhills want. "It's going to be a big thing for Zephyrhills … there's so much potential," Biston-Rogers said.

Melissa Swanstrom, left, and Jodie Biston-Rogers do demolition work.


Struggling West Zephyrhills Elementary gets new leader

Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning has replaced the principal at West Zephyrhills Elementary School, hoping to stave off the need for a state-mandated improvement plan at the school.

Scott Atkins, principal of A-rated Sand Pine Elementary for the past four years, will take over, effective June 1. Atkins will replace Charlene Tidd, who was transferred to an assistant principal post at Watergrass Elementary on April 3. Assistant principal Peggy Gilbert is running the school in the meantime. 'West Zephyrhills is one of those schools that is very close to the turnaround option list,' Browning said. 'Scott provides the leadership that will propel West Zephyrhills to where it needs to be.' Student performance on state testing has declined in recent years at West Zeph- yrhills, with its school grade slipping to a D in 2016. Atkins, who had not asked for a transfer, said he looked forward to bringing new ideas to improve outcomes.

He said a review of data indicates work can be done to raise the results of the lowest-scoring children, including the provision of added academic supports. 'I definitely feel we can get them off the (differentiated accountability) list,' Atkins said. 'I'll certainly look forward to that challenge.' Browning suggested that he intended to hand-pick a new principal for Sand Pine, talking around questions about whether he would advertise for the job. 'We're going to put the right-fit principal at Sand Pine,' he said.


The Road Of The Future Physical Changes Underway For State Road 56

What costs nearly $11 million a mile and grows in your backyard? It's the long-awaited, muchanticipated four-lane connector known as the State Road 56 Extension and eastwest commuters cannot wait for it to be open.

But it will take three years to complete. Motorists on Morris Bridge Road have noticed crews have burned and cleared land so the Florida Department of Transportation can do prep work for the six-mile road.

The FDOT project is crucial to ease congestion along the State Road 54 corridor as well as accommodate the growth in the greater Zephyrhills area. Much like the existing portion of S.R. 56 from Bruce B. Downs to Meadow Pointe Road in Wesley Chapel, the extension will also feature a 10-foot wide multi-use path on the south side of the roadway. It will have a 5-foot sidewalk on the north side of the road and include 7-foot bicycle lanes on the shoulders in each direction.

As the extension intersects Morris Bridge Road, turn lanes to access S.R. 56 will be added to the north-south artery and new asphalt will cover about a halfmile. A traffic signal is set for installation in the spring of 2018, according to David Botello, public information officer for District 7 of FDOT.

An FDOT project update sheet indicates the road is projected to open to traffic in 2020.

Cone & Graham is conducting the preparation work and Atkins has been contracted to oversee the construction. The project comes with a price tag of nearly $58 million and does not include $8 million that will be paid in interest. The City of Zephyrhills will pay $152,000 of the project's cost; the rest will paid by the county and state.

Pasco County and Zephyrhills see a big payoff for the road extension in the future. It took pressure from Zephyrhills City Council and state Rep. Danny Burgess to beat back the state's decision to scale down the extension as only a two-lane connector.

But once the county came on board with the necessary infusion of grant money, the plan ended up to be a fourlane road as originally pitched. Also in the works to ease the east-west angst, the widening of State Road 54 is in its early stages.

City officials have long dreamt of the connector serving as an economic boon for the Chancey Road industrial zone and municipal airport. But those who enjoy the rural peace below Zephyrhills aren't likely to share their glee: four developers are planning to add up to 11,000 homes along the new route.

Crews recently cleared and burned a path east of Morris Bridge Road for what will eventually become part of the State Road 56 extension from Wesley Chapel to U.S. Route 301.

There's no more "Dirt" to dish out, so that's all for now............"Dirt Meister", Jim


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