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Engineers say Seminole sales tax hike would help rehab worn bridges

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - There are dozens of road, bridge and improvement projects on Seminole County's wish list.

Channel 9's Kendra Oestreich has learned that how county residents vote on the proposed sales tax increase next week could affect the safety of some bridges in Winter Springs depend on the support from voters.

"In the city of Winter Spring, which happens to be where I live, there are two bridges which are on the critical list," said Seminole County commissioner John Horan.

Horan said he is worried about two aging and unstable bridges in his district, which includes Winter Springs.

He is concerned about the bridge on Northern Way that runs across Howell Creek, and the bridge where Winter Springs Boulevard crosses Bear Creek. He said those two are slowly eroding away, and there are two others, built in 1972, that don't meet current design standards.

"I wouldn't want to be driving over it and have something happen," said Winter Springs resident Jess Overton.

Engineers said it's hard to see the damage to the bear creek bridge above the water, but because of the age of the 27 year old bridge they are concerned about the foundation below the surface. They hope the proposed penny sales tax will pass and can help fund the needed replacement.

The additional penny would raise the county's sales tax from six to seven cents for every dollar spent.

If passed, Winter Springs hopes to use nearly $4 million from the one cent sales tax on the bridges.

Engineers said the structures aren't in danger of falling down any time soon, but they have concerns about the safety of the structures in the future.

City officials said they believe it would be much better to spend $1.7 million to repair the Bear Creek bridge than to pay $12 million to replace it, should it collapse.

"I would vote for (the tax). I would. Anything to help the community out," said Overton.

Engineers said if the sales tax doesn't pass they'll still have to find the funds for the bridge replacements somewhere.

Horan says it could mean a tax hike for homeowners.