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Dade City facing $2 million question on new city hall

DADE CITY — Should the city sock away more money for a rainy day, or spend some of its reserves on a new city hall?

That's the $2 million question.

City commissioners got an accounting Tuesday of their reserve funds, including $6.9 million in general reserves. Much of that money is earmarked for emergencies and other contingencies, but there is about $2 million available to spend — or continue saving.

City Manager Billy Poe made the pitch to move forward with a new City Hall — something to replace the deteriorating three-story City Hall and bring all Dade City offices under one roof.

"Let's bring in some developers," Poe said, "because we're the ugliest building in town. We need to get all of our city departments into one building and to portray a better image."

Commissioner William Dennis said he wants to bring respect back to Dade City.

"Our attitude in the past has been we can make it through," he said. "Now this money is sitting here for things we need to do."

Commissioner Eunice Penix agreed.

"Are we the little old lady who dies and then they find all her money?," she said. "We should use it."

Mayor Scott Black said the city shouldn't take the money for granted. He noted that other cities with a larger tax base set aside even more reserves than Dade City.

"I'm still pinching myself over Dade City's increased taxable values because we've always trailed in this area," said Black, alluding to the $10 million boost in the city's tax base this year. "But what may befall us next year?"

"Whatever we decide to do," he said, "let's not consider these pennies from heaven."

Commissioner Curtis Beebe, who attended Tuesday's meeting via teleconference, told the Times he supported the idea of putting the money toward a new City Hall.

"We need a new City Hall but not a Taj Ma-City-Hall," Beebe said.

Poe delineated priorities and goals including infrastructure for water wells, storm water drainage, road paving, code enforcements, police accreditations, parks, hiking trails extension, blighted residences, and a sidewalk along 10th Street.

"All that's left is a community center and a new City Hall," Poe said. "I'm pushing for City Hall."

In other news, Dade City commissioners:

• Approved the budget for the year starting Oct. 1. The 2011-12 budget keeps the same property tax rate of 7.1 mills, or $7.10 for every $1,000 of taxable property. A $10 million boost in the city's tax base allowed officials to collect an additional $71,000 without raising taxes.

• Discussed commissioner pay, which has remained $100 a month for more than 30 years. Commissioners surveyed salaries at other Florida cities with less than 7,500 people, and found their counterparts are paid between $300 a month and $14,500 a year. They will continue to consider options for updating their own pay.

• Repealed all local gun laws, to comply with a state law that prohibits cities and counties from regulating firearms.

City officials have also accepted the resignation of public works director Lennie Naeyaert, who took a government job in Washington, D.C., this month.

"We posted the job opening on our website and Career Builders," City Manager Billy Poe said. "We've received 16 applications and resumes so far and are setting up interviews for next week. In the meantime our staff and consultants will get us through and will assist Lennie's replacement."

Dade City facing $2 million question on new city hall 09/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:32pm]
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