Homeless Men Help Build New Shelter

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Some people who've experienced homelessness are helping build the new Emergency Services Center in Tallahassee to help deal with that issue.

Twelve people who've experienced homelessness have worked on the project so far.

That work includes pouring concrete for the foundation.

There are plans to hire additional homeless people to help complete the project.

"A lot of people need help, just need a chance and you give a person a chance, give them a shot, they can do it," said Sandy Thomas was recently homeless.

"Personally, it's great because it lets me know I am helping other people that helped me," said Tommy Byford who's also been homeless.

"We've had four or five of them out here at different times and all of them are great workers," said David Harding of Harding Concrete.

The Emergency Services Center, which includes a new homeless shelter, is scheduled to open in February.

Foundation work is almost complete on the new Tallahassee homeless shelter.

Crews have finished the under-ground plumbing work..and are wrapping up the foundation's electrical wiring.

The project got off to a slow start because of rainy weather.

Retention ponds have also been finished to take care of any rain run-off.

Concrete is expected to be poured next week.

"We're hoping to see our first building up in about a week or ten days. And that would be the women's dorm. Thereafter, perhaps another ten days, fourteen days we'll see the men's dorm up as well," said project manager Chuck White.

Contractors have currently hired four homeless people to help complete the project.

Once it's done there's a plan for 18 homeless people to work at the facility.

The project is expected to be done around February 1st and should open up by early April.

Leon County's new Emergency Service Center for the homeless will get its funding.

House and Senate leaders approved $100,000 to help operate the center once it's built.

Florida Governor Rick Scott did not line item veto that money.

Florida TaxWatch recently put that money on its annual turkey list because the funding was negotiated behind closed doors.

The group wanted the governor to veto all the projects on the turkey list.

The center's construction manager says he's thrilled the governor didn't do it.

Four local projects made the annual Florida TaxWatch turkey list.

This year's list contains more than $120-million in budget items TaxWatch wants the governor to line item veto.

Construction on the new Emergency Services Center for the homeless is well under way in Tallahassee.

Project managers asked state government for money.

Earlier this month, lawmakers in conference approved $100,000 to help run the shelter once its built.

"We were quite pleased to have the $100-thousand dollars by our state legislature," Shelter Project Manager Chuck White told us May 6th. "To us, it's a vote of confidence," he said.

But now, Florida TaxWatch is asking Governor Rick Scott to line item veto that money.

It's part of the group's annual turkey list.

"The state does have a process for distributing money to the homeless coalition, this was part of that," said TaxWatch's Kurt Wenner. "There were two earmarks added on top, they were added in conference so that's why they're on the list," he said.

In addition to the homeless shelter money, TaxWatch has $100,000 for the Camps for Champions program on the list because that money was a late budget add outside public review.

It's the same story for two Wakulla County projects, $580,000 for the Shell Point Boat Launch and $1.5-million for dredging.

"It will push something that did go through the process in the work program out," Wenner said.

TaxWatch reps say the turkey list is not an opinion about the individual merits of each project.

"Generally, budget turkeys are appropriations that have circumvented the established processes put in place by public officials to ensure accountability and transparency," said TaxWatch's Robert Weissert.

A spokesman for the governor didn't specifically comment on the local projects on turkey list.

However, he did say the governor's office will work within the June 4th deadline to make final decisions on line item vetoes and the overall budget.

Florida State quarterback and relief pitcher Jameis Winston admits he walked out of a Publix without paying for crab legs.

But instead of a criminal case against him, Winston was issued a civil citation requiring community service and restitution.

State lawmakers have now expanded similar programs.

"What the legislature did this year was really great for Florida taxpayers, they encouraged the use of more diversion programs to keep people from going to prison in the first place," said Morgan McCord of Florida TaxWatch.

However, Florida TaxWatch's continued push for pension reform for both cities and the state didn't pass thanks to lawmakers like Senator Bill Montford who calls it a victory for state workers and north Florida.

"Especially with the fact our state workers haven't received a raise in 7 years," said Montford.

"That would've reduced the taxpayers liability," said McCord.

Taxwatch does support the roughly $395-million in reductions to vehicle tag fees.

But the group does not support the last minute negotiations for $105-million in specifically targeted tax breaks.

One example is a tax break for diet pet food purchases.

Instead, TaxWatch supported a reduction in the Communication Services Tax on services like phone and cable or satellite tv.

That tax is as high as 16 percent in some parts of the state.

"Reducing the communications service tax is a wonderful way to provide broad based tax relief to Floridians," said McCord.

TaxWatch also supports the tax holidays lawmakers approved like the popular school supply program.

Leaders says it's good for both taxpayers and the economy.

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