Port Richey City Council sure has a funny way of showing its convictions. After months of dithering, the council voted this week to spend $32,000 to continue seeking state permits to dredge more than two dozen residential canals, but stopped short of a wiser investment — surveying affected lots and devising legal boundaries and a ballot to determine the costs and public interest of a proposed special taxing district.
It is an odd time to become miserly considering this on-again, off-again project has been kicked around for 12 years and has cost $1 million just for planning and consultants.
Property owners have clamored for years for their canals to be free of the muck and debris that hinders boat navigation, but past councils never had the political courage to ask residents to pick up the tab. In that regard, the current council is at least moving — though much too slowly — in the right direction.
Mayor Richard Rober said paying for continued permitting costs in advance of an Aug. 17 town hall meeting "demonstrates a conviction'' over the project. Maybe. But, the council should have shown stronger convictions — not just this week, but at several points over the past few months — and ordered more precise data to be presented to the public.
By declining to pay $53,000 for a legal survey and ballot work, the council is ensuring only estimates, not actual costs, will be available for residents, and the price projections could be off by as much as 20 percent.
After a dozen years and a million dollars, canal-front lot owners deserve better information. It is commendable that the council is at least trying to assemble a special taxing district to present to voters after the council declined to do so only two months ago. However, it would be smart to do the job correctly. Measuring public attitudes at a town hall meeting without final surveys and per-lot costs is an unnecessary step that could have been avoided had council simply been more decisive in April.
A council that wants to demonstrate its convictions shouldn't do so half-heartedly.