ZEPHYRHILLS — The city council unanimously agreed Monday to look into buying the 15-acre Hercules aquatic park site from the Pasco County school district.
School district staff approached the city last year, asking if there was any interest in a long-term lease for about 12 acres; the remaining portion was likely to be sold to the highest bidder. City council members expressed concern that the property, on the southeast corner of U.S. 301 and County Road 54, would end up being purchased for a gas station or convenience store.
Council member Kent Compton broached the idea of the city buying the entire site at an affordable price. Ray Gadd, assistant superintendent, said he was willing to take any offer the city makes to the school board for consideration. State law allows governmental entities to buy and sell properties to each other without a bidding process, said City Manager Jim Drumm.
Until a couple of years ago, the county operated the park and pool under a lease agreement with the school district. Budget woes prompted the county to close it and turn the land back over to the district. Gadd said the district has liability concerns with the pool, which has fallen into disrepair, and a building on the site that is repeatedly broken into.
The council voted after hearing the recommendation of the city's parks and recreation board, which urged the city to do whatever it could to gain control of the property and to consider having an engineering study done on the pool to determine if it is worth repairing. Board chairman Alan Knight said the board has been inundated with public opinion favoring an operational swimming pool at the park.
The city's annual citizen satisfaction survey will ask residents if they are willing to pay a little more in property taxes — .25 mills for every $1,000 of taxable property value, for example — to help open and maintain a city-owned swimming pool. The council gave final approval to this year's survey on Monday. It will be sent to about 1,200 residents within the next two weeks.