After a dozen years of planning and $1 million in spending, the Port Richey City Council believes $29,000 is too rich of a price to define a special taxing district for its long-discussed dredge of residential canals.
In declining to pay a consultant to devise the district's boundaries and determine per-lot costs in advance of a future ballot referendum, the council unceremoniously killed this project before giving the electorate a chance to do likewise.
The dredge, doomed by cost estimates of $10 million to clean debris and silt from 29 canals, should be put to rest, if the council believes it lacks public support. However, council members unwisely raised public hopes that some other unknown funding source could become available.
It is a ridiculous, unrealistic assumption and publicly suggesting that some undetermined grant money could be used is irresponsible. Past and current dredges in the area — the channel at Hudson Beach in Pasco and the ongoing project at the Hernando Beach channel in Hernando County — included one-time state financing because of the benefit to the commercial fishing industry. In Port Richey, however, the dredge is aimed largely at the man-made canals abutting waterfront residences. There is little commercial benefit other than some homeowners might be able to buy bigger boats if they could navigate their canals more readily.
A public works project benefitting a specific and narrow waterfront community should be financed by the beneficiaries. A proposed special taxing district and more detailed information would have been key to finally allowing the residents to determine for themselves if the dredge was worth doing.
That, however, won't be happening.
The exorbitant cost estimate prompted the council to kill the district before the plans could be drawn. The public vote would have been preferable, but since that has been abandoned, the council needs to pull the plug on this project entirely and forget about extending permitting deadlines. That simply keeps the tab running.
The city's community redevelopment agency — tax money generated from increased property values after the city declared itself blighted last decade — can be put to more productive use besides trying to keep dredge permits afloat.
And a city on such uncertain financial footing that it twice drew attention from state auditors as a potential state of emergency should not be investing more money in a proposed project it will not ask its residents to complete.