PORT RICHEY — City Council members agreed Tuesday night to make one more pitch to waterfront property owners in Port Richey to see if they would be willing to pay for an embattled canal dredging project.
Port Richey officials have spent 10 years and $1 million on planning and permitting to get the project ready, but paying the estimated $10 million price tag to dredge the city's 29 canals remains elusive.
Now the council wants to hold a town hall meeting to get the public's input on where the city should go next. At its May 10 meeting, the council will set a date and ask anyone affected by the project to attend, hear a presentation on progress, and to voice concerns. The council agreed to pick up the tab to mail notifications to property owners once the meeting is set.
The council has long considered asking affected property owners to vote on whether to accept a special tax assessment. But two weeks ago, the council quashed spending the $29,000 it would take for a study to calculate exactly what each property owner would have to pay and to fund the balloting process.
Council members reasoned that paying to bring a tax increase proposal to a vote during the current political climate did not make sense. The opposition from property owners would be so stiff a "flak jacket" would be needed, council member Terry Rowe estimated two weeks ago.
Instead, the council is seeking grant funding for the project. But the project's engineering consultant Joe Wagner has described that as a difficult path for success, so council members agreed Tuesday to make one more run at property owners.
"It would be foolish to come to a screeching halt without putting this to the residents," Mayor Richard Rober said.