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Dredging project could affect Port Richey City Council election

PORT RICHEY — Now that dissolution is dead in the water, a new issue is on the forefront in this year's City Council elections: dredging.

Stalled progress on the project prompted political newcomers Phil Abts and Perry Bean to challenge incumbents — Dale Massad, Nancy Britton and Steven O'Neill — in the race for three council seats.

If elected, Abts and Bean want to secure permits to dredge 29 canals by allowing new engineering firm PBS&J to spearhead the project.

The city has spent $464,000 over two years trying to get permits. Abts and Bean said the previous consultant, the LPA Group, was less experienced, and too many residents interfered.

PBS&J will take the reins of the project in a few months, after the LPA Group finishes state paperwork for one of the three permits.

The incumbents also blame the LPA Group for the delay. Like Abts and Bean, they say hiring PBS&J will move the project along.

The three incumbents were elected two years ago on the platform of providing citizens with the option of dissolving the city. But the issue was put to rest a year later after citizens voted to keep the city intact.

Since then, the trio has worked alongside Mayor Richard Rober and council member Mark Hashim, both elected last year. They also hired City Manager Richard Reade, whose work ethic they've praised.

But their efforts to revitalize a blighted mobile home park failed when the city couldn't reach an agreement with the seller's attorney.

The job

Port Richey City Council members are elected at-large in a nonpartisan race. This year the top three vote-getters win a seat and will serve two-year terms. Council members earn $4,200 per year.

The candidates

Phil Abts, 42, has lived in the city for 12 years. He is an insurance agent from Birmingham, Ala. Abts began attending City Council meetings last fall after hearing the dredging project wasn't moving at a steady pace. He also helped start Citizens for Proper Dredge, a watchdog group for the dredging project. Abts is president of the Knights of Columbus.

ASSETS: home.

LIABILITIES: mortgage.

SOURCE OF INCOME: personal business.

Perry Bean, 42, has lived in the city for four years. Bean, married with three children, is a stay-at-home dad. The Georgia native is a former manufacturing firm executive. He is a member of the city's Port Authority Committee, and was part of a selection committee that recommended engineering firms to replace the city's dredging consultant, The LPA Group. He is also a member of Citizens for Proper Dredge.

ASSETS: home.

LIABILITIES: mortgage.

SOURCE OF INCOME: none.

Dale Massad, 57, is seeking his third council term. Massad, a native Oklahoman, has lived in the city for eight years. He came to Florida to serve as a coroner and medical director for Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services. He surrendered his license to practice medicine in 1992 after being accused of negligence in the death of a young patient at his Palm Harbor walk-in clinic. Massad was elected to a two-year term in 2002, but lost a re-election bid in 2004. He regained a council seat in 2006. Massad considers his work toward getting the city's millage rate lowered as one of his major accomplishments. Last year, Massad purchased a waterfront home as an investment property with City Attorney James Mathieu, whose live-in girlfriend is council member Nancy Britton. Massad has a son.

ASSETS: three pieces of property.

LIABILITIES: mortgages.

SOURCE OF INCOME: annuity.

Nancy Britton, 49, is seeking her second council term. She has lived in the city for 22 years. Britton is a marketing director for Peninsula Health Care and Rehabilitation in Tarpon Springs. Britton was a newcomer to city politics when she was elected two years ago. Britton led the charge last year to purchase the eastside mobile home park. Her live-in boyfriend is City Attorney James Mathieu. Britton has two sons.

ASSETS: home.

LIABILITIES: loans.

SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

Steven O'Neill, 46, is seeking his second council term. He has lived in the city for seven years. Like Britton, O'Neill was a newcomer to city politics when he was elected in 2006. While in office, O'Neill says he has helped reduce the city's millage rate and supported city beautification projects. O'Neill is a nuclear medicine technician at the Florida Cancer Institute. He serves on the board at the Sand Pebble Townhomes and he has a son.

ASSETS: home.

LIABILITIES: loans.

SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

Dredging project could affect Port Richey City Council election 04/05/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 8:31am]

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