NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $1.75 million in county funds, to be matched with millions more in state and private dollars, to replace the Dade Oaks Apartments public housing.
The allocation — technically, a formal funding agreement between Pasco County and the state housing authority, which oversees Dade Oaks — was approved unanimously by commissioners, signaling a major step in a year-old plan to replace the dilapidated housing complex.
The 69-unit complex sits at the bottom of a drainage basin at 37460 Acorn Loop in north Dade City, making it susceptible to flooding.
The complex doesn't flood every summer, but it floods often enough that it's not unusual to see housing authority workers loading up sandbags to protect units from overflowing retention ponds as the storm season approaches.
Additionally, residents have complained of unsafe public spaces, broken laundry facilities and generally dilapidated conditions.
In May 2012, Dade Oaks received a failing inspection from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, prompting HUD officials to recommend a substantial rehabilitation of the complex.
Last year, Pasco housing officials decided to relocate and replace the 37-year-old complex — moving to a 12.8-acre site on 14th Street, about a mile north of the existing Dade Oaks — rather than try to tackle the flooding problem while rehabilitating the complex.
The $1.75 million in county funds approved Tuesday will be matched with $3.3 million in state funds and $10 million in private equity funds, or loans, bringing the total to $15.05 million.
"This is just the first agreement," George Romagnoli, director of community development for Pasco, said of the vote. "It was really more of a formality. We have the rest of the funding in place."
The 18-month project is tentatively set to start in September. It's intended to provide the residents, who range from families to longtime elderly residents, with modern, energy-efficient units.
Residents said they hope the relocation elevates their living standard.
"I'll be glad to get away from the flooding," said Eva Mae Rooks, 62, who has lived at Dade Oaks for more than 30 years. "The maintenance is sorry. It took a month to fix my bathroom."
Orange picker Kelsi Shirk, 29, moved into a four-bedroom unit with her six children 14 months ago.
"During the day this is housing," she said, "and at night, it's the projects."
She said her main concerns relate to the public amenities and safety.
"The (coin-operated) washer-dryer is always broken. The water leaks and the management companies keep changing. I read the fliers about them moving us out. Maybe there'll be better security over there in 2015."
In other business Tuesday, Pasco commissioners approved hiring a new assistant county administrator to replace Bipin Parikh, who retired in June.
Randall J. TeBeest started his new job immediately after the commission voted to hire him at a salary of $105,000.
TeBeest previously worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 23 years, most recently as commanding officer of NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. TeBeest will oversee the county's customer service department, Fire-Rescue division, the Emergency Management office, office of tourism and public information and public safety communications.
Rich Shopes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.