NEW PORT RICHEY — Getting money from the penalties BP paid as a result of its April 2010 oil spill is like playing a party game, a consultant told Pasco County commissioners recently.
"It's like a pinata," said Tallahassee consultant Bill Williams during a workshop held last month to explain the process. "You have to swing at it to get the candy."
And it's a lot of candy.
Pasco County could end up in control of up to $19 million in local funds from the 2012 Restore Act, established to direct most of the civil penalties from BP and other companies responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill. Pasco is among the counties that will get 25 percent of the funds awarded. Counties more directly affected by the spill will get 75 percent of the total amount.
Other pots of money can also be sought to match with local money, Williams said. The exact settlement has yet to be determined. The federal and state governments will control the other pots of money, but counties can come up with their own projects that are compatible and try to seek more funds.
The first step for the county is establishing an advisory committee. Earlier this week, county officials approved a resolution to create such a panel. County officials have put a notice on the county website seeking volunteers.
The board's voluntary advisory committee will be made of people who have a broad range of knowledge and experience in the following areas:
• A higher education institution (college or university);
• A member from the aquaculture industry or marine industries;
• A member from the workforce development/job creation industry;
• A member with experience in economic development;
• A member from the tourism industry;
• One at-large citizen member;
• A member recommended by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
Pasco residents interested in serving may send an email to email@example.com and provide a brief biography and state what role they can serve on the committee. The county website is pascocountyfl.net.
The committee would make recommendations on how Pasco's share of the money is spent, but the final decision on any projects would rest with the County Commission.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.