The northeast Pasco communities of Lacoochee and Trilby will soon get a much-needed $3.5 million boost for infrastructure.
The cash is left over from a federal loan for the county's Tommytown project, which came in under budget. The bulk of the money — about $1.8 million — will pay to pave and resurface about 20 residential roads in Lacoochee. Projects would be focused on the area north of the old Cummer sawmill site and in the Mosstown neighborhood.
"The roads in Lacoochee have been neglected since the mill left (in 1959)," said Richard Riley, chairman of a citizens committee focused on redeveloping the two neighborhoods.
Community Development Director George Romagnoli said he expects the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve the money transfer within a few months. The paving projects could begin in late summer or early fall.
The roadwork falls under the county's paving assessment program, which charges property owners a flat fee to offset costs for projects that only benefit a particular area. Romagnoli said the fee is waived for homeowners with a homestead property tax exemption who make less than 80 percent of the county's median income. Landlords and commercial property owners would have to pay the fee.
Romagnoli said the vast majority of Lacoochee residents can qualify for the exemption. As the projects get closer to beginning, his office will conduct an outreach campaign to explain the process to residents.
In addition to the road projects, about $320,000 would pay for water lines near Habitat for Humanity homes in Lacoochee. Another $900,000 would be spent on Trilby residential road projects that have not yet been identified.
Romagnoli included $500,000 for economic development in the area to help officials bring a large employer to the industrial mill site. But basic infrastructure work is a necessary step toward bringing jobs.
"You can't bring a prospective employer in with it looking like it does," said Lacoochee resident Judy Geiger.
Riley also praised the Metropolitan Planning Organization for planning a separate study of collector roads in Lacoochee, including Coit and Bower roads that are on either side of the former mill site.
"To get into Lacoochee you almost have to use those roads," he said. "They are pot-holed, narrow, and in my opinion in very poor shape."
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.