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Projects help Dade City spruce itself up

The city made strides in 2010 to improve its appearance.

New streetlights went up. David Hernandez used a city grant to spruce up his row of storefronts on Seventh Street, which one commissioner had called the "ugliest building in downtown." And commissioners adopted three ordinances in September giving the city access to unkempt, foreclosed properties to clean them up, tear down unsafe structures and charge the costs to the property owners.

But the biggest piece of Dade City's facelift is yet to come: a $6 million complex that will house a new city hall and police station.

So far, officials are unimpressed by the design of the facility, which some residents are calling the "Taj Mahal of Dade City" because of its proposed span and amenities.

"If you're asking, 'Do I like it?' — well, it doesn't knock my socks off," city Commissioner Camille Hernandez said earlier this month.

Architects assured commissioners that they are still working on the design.

Hernandez and her husband, David, were also entangled in a controversy this year involving the city's ban on private wells. City officials had cited the couple for having a private well at their Bougainvillea Avenue home, and the couple received a summons to appear in court. But the citation was dropped in June after city attorney Karla Owens determined that the couple's well predated the city's 1982 ban on private wells and was grandfathered in.

Another commissioner faced trouble on the home front as a bank initiated foreclosure proceedings on Curtis Beebe's historic Church Avenue home. Beebe, who struggled financially after a failed business endeavor, has been working with the bank in the hopes of keeping his home.

The city also faced strained finances this year. Officials proposed a $3.50 monthly stormwater fee that would be tacked onto city residents' utility bills. It would have raised $288,000 a year to fund the planning, permitting, construction and maintenance of local stormwater improvements. But commissioners, who were concerned about putting another charge on residents and business owners, killed the proposal in July.

The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce dismissed executive director Nita Beckwith in November for unspecified reasons. She will be replaced by John G. Moors, the retired director of the Tampa Convention Center.

But perhaps the most surprising piece of local business news is the prospect of a beer sponsor for one of Dade City's marquee events, the annual Kumquat Festival.

Chamber president Joey Wubbena brought the idea to the commission last month, saying organizers may request a permit to sell beer at the Jan. 29 event. He said a large Tampa beer distributor — whom he declined to name during negotiations — wants to sponsor and gain naming rights to the event.

A sponsorship would be a shot in the arm for the chamber fundraiser, which has seen event revenue lag as the economy soured. But Mayor Scott Black said he feels uncomfortable about alcohol sales at family-friendly events.

Still, he noted, the ordinance allowing alcohol sales at special events "is what it is, and the guidelines are what they are."

Projects help Dade City spruce itself up 12/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 8:53pm]
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