PORT RICHEY — Voters could get another chance to decide whether the city should be dissolved.
A divided City Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to an ordinance that would let residents vote on whether to keep the city or revoke its charter.
It's too late to add the question to the ballot for the April 14 municipal election. But if the council approves the ordinance on its second and final reading March 10, a special election could be held after 90 days.
Vice Mayor Mark Hashim and council members Phil Abts and Perry Bean, who have long supported the idea of allowing residents to vote on dissolution, voted in favor of the ordinance.
Mayor Richard Rober and council member Steven O'Neil dissented.
"I feel like we're putting the cart before the horse," Rober said. "We need a lot of answers about this before we deliver it to the residents' hands."
Voters won't have the final say on the city's fate, however. To disband the city, City Council would have to vote to do so.
Dissolution petitions have circulated throughout this city of 3,200 for years. The issue came to a vote in 2007, when 54 percent of Port Richey voters rejected a petition to dissolve the city.
The issue had quieted down until January, when a petitioners' committee gathered 200 signatures — the required 10 percent of the city's registered voters — and drafted an ordinance asking if residents wanted to dissolve.
But City Attorney Michael Brannigan told the committee the petition was improperly done, prompting the City Council on Feb. 10 to vote 3-2 for Brannigan to redraft the petition.
That vote mirrored Tuesday's: Hashim, Abts and Bean supported the redrafting of the petition. Rober and O'Neil dissented.
Bean said Wednesday he wants to get the ordinance passed and move on to more pressing issues in the city. "It's simply a case of a significant portion of the electorate who wants this done," he said. "Whether I like it or not, I can't ignore that."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.