NEW PORT RICHEY — In the annals of holiday wish lists, Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher drew up a doozy: $1.4-billion worth of new roads, buildings and water pipes.
President-elect Obama has promised a massive stimulus proposal for construction money to spark the economy. So Pasco and other counties have drawn up their lists of projects they say are ready to be built.
The County Commission endorsed its list Tuesday, highlighting some projects as high priorities but not crossing anything out.
Checking it twice?
"I think we should ask for as much money as we can," Commissioner Michael Cox said.
Some are roads with choked traffic. Or buildings to deliver better services. Or pipes to deliver water to relieve the aquifer.
Most, if not all, have no county money to make them real, either by shortage or credit crunch.
Enter what Gallagher calls "Obama-dollars."
These are like Monopoly money. Except there are rules to Monopoly. So far the stimulus plan has none.
The actual plan for the Obama package has yet to be released — he isn't in the White House until January — though he has promised a major initiative. It is estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars.
It also has to be passed by Congress and doled out.
Which means Gallagher and county staffers had to admit they don't know how the plan will end up. Or if any of it will land in Pasco. Based on conversations with the officials from the National Association of Counties, road spending could be a top priority, said Cindy Jolly, Pasco's development review manager, who helped cobble the list. But anything that could quickly spur construction jobs is getting attention.
"Shovel-ready," Gallagher called it.
So vast is the chance of gifts, Commissioner Ted Schrader told the board members they "need not be parochial."
Commissioner Pat Mulieri waited minutes to press for money for highways in central Pasco, which is her district.
Later, Gallagher made sure to ask whether Commission Chairman Jack Mariano had spending in his northwest Pasco district. He did: a continuous right turn lane on U.S. 19.
Mulieri again pressed for her cause not-so-celebre: paving Pasco's 191 miles of dirt roads.
The board waffled.
"I'm asking Senator (Bill) Nelson for money for dirt roads," Mulieri vowed. "They're an environmental hazard."
Dirt roads, it was.
In other business
Garbage bills: The monthly charge for residential garbage will go up 75 cents to $12.44 after a 5-0 vote. Haulers wanted steeper increases, but the board resisted.
Pollution: The board agreed to hire a consultant for $100,000 to study how nitrogen runoff from Pasco County ends up in Tampa Bay. The county faces stiffer federal regulations against pollution, and wants its own assessment. Complying could cost millions, staffers said.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.