Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Port Richey dredging awaits decision while other needs mount

PORT RICHEY — The aging firehouse needs major upgrades. The vegetation is overgrown and the bathrooms are falling apart at Port Richey parks. And the city pier near Whiskey River has been fenced off because it's structurally unsound, city administrators told City Council members.

Meeting as the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, the council received a sobering report last week about the rundown conditions around town. The city declared itself blighted nearly a decade ago in order to create the redevelopment agency and obtain funding to fix itself up. Since then, a good amount of the agency's time and more than $1.2 million has gone toward a proposal to dredge 20 canals, but the effort has stalled again amid legal and financial questions.

Mayor Richard Rober left last week's meeting feeling the city has plenty of projects that need attention now — and it's time to decide whether dredging is one of them.

"I think there has been tunnel vision when it comes to dredging that has contributed to some of these things," Rober told the Times after the meeting. "It makes no sense to look back and point fingers. I'm sitting in the middle now, so blame me. But I really believe it's time to focus on other needs."

Rober supports a proposal to spend $30,000 for a consultant's study needed to hold a non-binding referendum on the dredging plan. The study would outline the proposed tax assessments on about 140 property owners along the canals to pay for the dredging, estimated to cost between $4.3 million and $4.8 million.

Council member Steve O'Neill also supports moving forward with the study. But he hasn't garnered support from the majority.

"I just don't see the property owners coming forward who are willing to take on more taxes in this economy," said Vice Mayor Bill Colombo. "So it's hard for me spend money on something I just don't see going anywhere."

Council members Terry Rowe and Nancy Britton both say they are waiting on a legal review. Rowe has questioned whether the city can charge only waterfront property owners for the dredging work, when officials have used redevelopment tax dollars collected citywide for the planning costs.

City Attorney Joseph Poblick said he has found no roadblocks to moving forward with the project. Poblick said city redevelopment funds are often used for planning purposes, and portions of the dredging project will be in front of city parks, which would benefit all residents.

Poblick also said he consulted with Tampa city attorneys who likened Port Richey's dredging planning costs to the redevelopment funds Tampa spent on its Riverwalk and the Glazer Children's Museum.

"I don't see any issues with the project as it stands," Poblick said.

But both Britton and Rowe say they want assurances from other legal experts on the city's use of redevelopment funds.

"I just want to make sure we are on sound legal footing to move forward," Rowe said. "We have been working on this for a while, so I think taking a little more time doesn't hurt."

But Rober said the time, money and energy spent on the dredging project over the years is proving to be a drain on the city's other needs. For much of the redevelopment agency's history, Rober said, the lion's share of the funding has gone toward planning the dredging, as a groundswell of property owners lobbied for the project.

"The most immediate feeling was we're going to have money for dredging," Rober said, describing the mind-set when the redevelopment agency was created.

The dredging project dominated many council meetings, and officials hoped to get grants to pay for the work. But when it became apparent property owners would likely have to foot the bill, Rober said, support began to soften.

Paul Boudreaux, a property and land use law professor at Stetson University, said it's not uncommon for communities to develop unrealistic ambitions when a new source of funding — like a redevelopment taxing district — becomes available.

"Government officials are often overly optimistic when they use techniques like this," Boudreaux said.

Rober would like to see the dredging project happen. But more than anything, he wants a decision on the issue:

Either move forward, he said, or move on.

Port Richey dredging awaits decision while other needs mount 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    President Donald Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House with members of the GOP on May 4 after the House passed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act. [Cheriss May | Sipa USA via TNS]
  2. Tarpon Springs psychic charged with defrauding veteran, widow out of $155,000


    TARPON SPRINGS — A psychic was arrested Tuesday after police said she scammed two clients out of more than $150,000.

    Gina Wilson
  3. St. Pete Economic Development Corporation lures marketing firm MXTR to town

    Economic Development

    St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation has lured its first big catch to St. Petersburg — MXTR Automation. The digital marketing company announced Wednesday that it will fill 20 "high-wage" creative positions within the next 18 months, as well as open an office in downtown St. Petersburg this year.

  4. Hernando sheriff: Middle school staffer accused of sexually assaulting student


    SPRING HILL — A staffer and coach at Fox Chapel Middle School was arrested Tuesday, accused of sexually assaulting a student on the school's campus.

    Marcus Wells, 34, an in-school suspension monitor at Fox Chapel Middle School, was arrested Tuesday on allegations that he sexually battered a student, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. He was fired by the school district. [Photo courtesy of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Memorial service sparks wistful memories for daughter of slain Hillsborough deputy

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — As the somber notes of "Taps" sounded in a stiff breeze, Sherri Longway thought about her father.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, far left, stands with his hand over his heart along with others during the HCSO's annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service Wednesday, May 24, 2017 in the Ybor City area Tampa. Sheriff David Gee along with dignitaries and members of the sheriff's office paid tribute to members of the Sheriff's Office who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.