Hard-headed council, don't move library Aug. 19 editorial
Library plan needs another review
I was unfairly characterized as being hard-headed and wishy-washy. I can assure you, I am neither.
The 2008 feasibility study's scope was simply to evaluate the structural components of the building as it related to the intended use. The consultant was not asked to render an opinion as to the property's suitability for a library. The structural engineer determined it would be necessary to reinforce only the center portion of the second floor to support stacks of books. Granted, it could cost up to $100,000, but this sort of thing is done all the time in private sector work, and shouldn't cause one to rule out the option entirely. The building and property have other attributes that make it very desirable as an investment of public equity — location, ample parking and the potential to be transformed into a lovely, functional library.
In 2002, the USF Florida Center for Community Design Research published a comprehensive study for the city of Zephyrhills, "Main Street Zephyrhills: A Traditional Small Town Center." Locating the library at such a visible intersection meets three objectives listed in that document: Creating a more discernible "sense of place" for downtown, creating an environment that would support existing Main Street businesses and expand the patronage base of the area, and preservation of the historic character of Main Street as a traditional small town center. Now, it could serve as a destination place nestled between the soon-to-be remodeled pedestrian-friendly Gall Boulevard shopping district and historic Fifth Avenue merchants.
I am offended at the implication that I am somehow kowtowing to special interests. I am not. My education, and my role as owner of an architecture firm specializing in interior remodels of existing buildings, uniquely qualifies me to make sound decisions on this matter.
In November 2011, I finally capitulated and voted with my fellow council members to move forward with a new library wing, but now I think I may have made a mistake. I am only asking that council, the city manager, librarian and the library board keep an open mind.
If we could purchase the building for a reasonable sum (somewhere between the $400,00 tax-assessed value and the pie-in-the-sky $885,000 listing price), significantly reduce the architectural and engineering fees, and create an attractive landmark, a roomier library and stronger sense of place for downtown, all the while saving the city $250,000 in the process, I think I'd be remiss in my duties not to ask we re-evaluate this one last time.
Jodi Wilkeson, Zephyrhills council member
Old west Pasco being ignored
These was a story on Pasco County Community Development manager George Romagnoli assisting New Port Richey in stopping the blight that is most of the city. I applaud this, but how about the county addressing the blight that has taken over old west Pasco?
Having bought in the Embassy Hills area more than 24 years ago, it was once a very neat and desirable community. Look at it now. The commission seems to be in love with the new Pasco County — Trinity and Wesley Chapel — at our expense. For years, old west Pasco was the largest tax base for the county and it drove the economy.
What we have seen is the complete ignoring of this once vibrant area by our elected officials. Our community associations are no help in fighting this creeping blight as they don't have the fight left in them and newer residents are mostly renters, not owners.
There are numerous code violations throughout the Embassy Hills area, which contribute to the decline of our area and our property values. Over-grown lawns, four and five families in a two-bedroom house, four or five cars parked all over the property, fences falling down, houses needing paint, etc. I can go on and on. I wonder if the county commissioner in the area has ever driven around and looked at the situation.
I understand there are too few code officers. I also understand a county commissioner — a part-time employee, makes more than $80,000 plus benefits. Maybe if we reduce this to about $15,000 a year and they pay for their own benefits, we can hire more code officers.
The residents of this area need to take an active role in seeing we are treated the same as the central and eastern part of the county. We all know government, especially in Pasco, is not proactive, but reacts when pressured. Look at the homeowners in the Trinity Oaks area. It floods pretty bad. But, who gave the okay to build? Now, the residents have said to the county, fix the problem you created.
Ernie Stetz, Port Richey