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Petition to dissolve Port Richey back in play

PORT RICHEY — With the new year comes an old initiative: Another petition is circulating with the goal of dissolving the municipality of Port Richey.

The push to merge the city of 3,200 with unincorporated Pasco County is a familiar one in a town that has long wrestled with its own existence.

A petition in 2004 had legal and procedural flaws. Another in 2006 got as far as a nonbinding referendum that asked residents if they wanted to spend $250,000 or more to dissolve the city. But about 54 percent of voters rejected that measure at the polls in 2007.

Those failures to dissolve the city haven't stalled a small group of residents who plan to ask City Council to adopt a dissolution ordinance at the Jan. 13 meeting and hold another referendum in the spring.

The five members of the Petitioners Committee filed a one-page affidavit at City Hall on Dec. 23.

The document includes an ordinance that asks the City Council to repeal the ordinance that created the city and dissolve the municipal corporation. It also calls for providing a "transfer of municipal property to Pasco County, providing for the transfer of fire and police services to Pasco County, Florida and providing severability and an effective date."

Usually, attorneys draft the ordinances for petitions like the one the committee began circulating last month.

But Alene Burke, one of the committee's members, said the committee hasn't consulted with legal counsel on the wording of its ordinance to dissolve the city, which is at the top of the petition.

She said City Attorney Michael Brannigan could re-draft the ordinance after the petition is handed to the council during next week's meeting.

"It doesn't need to be complicated," she said. "We want to get it on the April ballot."

Burke said the committee has gathered 200 signatures on the petition. That's more than the required 10 percent, or 190 registered voters in the city.

She said the 2007 referendum question wasn't worded correctly, prompting the need for another dissolution petition. She said the move would save money for residents, who she says pay for police and fire service in both the county and the city.

"I think the question needs to be, 'Do you want to keep the city or incorporate it?' " she said. "We're hoping the question isn't about spending money, but about incorporating."

Council member Perry Bean, who was elected in 2008 on the platform of providing residents with the option to dissolve the city, said he supports the right to push any issue forward on a referendum ballot.

"If 200 voters want something on the ballot, whether I am in favor of not, I won't stand in the way of their right to determine their own destiny," he said.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Petition to dissolve Port Richey back in play 01/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 12:34pm]
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