Pasco County has decided to sprinkle a little holiday cheer among some needy neighborhoods. The gift-giving comes via a $4 million windfall in the county's federally financed residential redevelopment effort. Earlier this month, commissioners identified low-income communities to be targeted for improvements: Moon Lake, Lacoochee and Kent Grove.
At the urging of Commissioner Jack Mariano, commissioners also said they would consider adding Gulf Highlands in unincorporated Port Richey, where residents tried unsuccessfully to obtain an assessment for street repaving. The making-a-list chore now falls to Pasco's Community Development Division, which will compile the needed and affordable infrastructure upgrades in each locale.
The help is available because the large-scale redevelopment of Tommytown in northeast Pasco came in under budget. The county borrowed $13.6 million from the federal government to build 4.5 miles of new roads, nearly 3 miles of sidewalks and 15 miles of pipes for water, sewer and drainage. The final bids, however, came in 40 percent lower than projected, which the county attributed to aggressive pricing from contractors seeking work.
The result is $4 million left over for work elsewhere because the federal loans include no mechanism for early repayment. The county will use a share of its annual federal block grant allocation — intended to serve moderate and low-income residents — to repay the loan.
The needs are well documented. In Gulf Highlands, for instance, commissioners heard from a resident frustrated at the neighborhood's inability to get absentee property owners to contribute toward street improvements. In Lacoochee, the county already adopted an ambitious and diverse redevelopment plan calling for better transit, pedestrian paths, improved code enforcement, workforce training and crime prevention, and expanded Stanley Park. The poor condition of the unpaved roads in Kent Grove brings periodic requests for quick fixes from resident Commissioner Pat Mulieri and Moon Lake remains an area in transition — and in need of a mass transit service — despite high-end housing developments sprouting there.
Certainly, $4 million won't fix everything, but the unexpected influx of help is a welcome contribution to bettering these neighborhoods.