DADE CITY — The choice before city commissioners came down to this: cut a break for a fellow commissioner's husband, or allow a prominent eyesore downtown to remain that way.
After a heated debate, commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday evening to grant the break for David Hernandez, giving him another three-month extension on a $42,820 city grant to fix up his commercial building on Seventh Street and allowing him to receive the money in phases, before the entire project is complete. His wife, Commissioner Camille Hernandez, recused herself from the vote.
David Hernandez was first approved for the grant in September to repaint his building, replace the aging awning and make other repairs. He received his first extension in February, which required him to finish the project by April 30.
He has yet to start the work.
The city's Community Redevelopment Agency launched its Window of Opportunity grant program last fall to help businesses repaint and repair their exteriors. The businesses must pay for the work first, then get reimbursed.
In addition to another three-month extension, David Hernandez proposed making his improvements in four phases. He wanted to receive a portion of the grant after completing each phase — a departure from the grant regulations.
An advisory panel recommended against the request, fearing it would set a bad precedent. The panel also questioned whether Hernandez will finish the project.
But the commission majority agreed Tuesday evening that the building badly needed the face-lift.
"It's the ugliest building in downtown. … If it benefits somebody on the commission, so be it," said Commissioner Bill Dennis.
He joined Commissioner Eunice Penix and Mayor Scott Black in granting David Hernandez's request.
Commissioner Curtis Beebe voted against the request, saying it "looks bad."
"I guess the elephant in the room is making special provisions when our colleague is an owner. …There's an appearance of a problem and that makes me squirm a little," Beebe said.
Camille Hernandez participated little in the discussion, other than to note that she was no longer serving as the representative for her husband's business, ANPM Enterprises LLC.
David Hernandez qualified for a substantial grant because his building at 14123 Seventh St. houses four storefronts. One is occupied by an art gallery. The other three are empty.
City Manager Billy Poe expressed reservations about granting the extension.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: As part of the break granted by Dade City commissioners, David Hernandez will do the renovations to his Seventh Street building in four phases, and receive a portion of the $42,820 city grant after completing each phase. This represents a departure from the rules of the grant program, in which businesses must pay upfront for the costs of repainting and improving their facades, then receive reimbursement at the end when the project is complete. An article Wednesday was incorrect on this point.