07/29/15 Mass Transit
A pair of Pasco County communities are raising concerns about connectivity.
As in getting from here to there. One wants a road. One wants a bus. And both can gripe legitimately that their voices haven't been heard for nearly 20 years.
We'll start in the east, where a motorist driving to Walgreens, Buddy's Home Furnishings or Winn-Dixie along U.S. 301 in Dade City must turn west onto Morningside Drive, which ends just behind the businesses. Then let's say the motorist is headed to visit a friend at the Bayfront Health Dade City hospital. They must drive south on U.S. 301, turn west on the newly widened Clinton Avenue and then head north on Fort King Road. After this circuitous trip of nearly 4 miles, the driver reaches — ready? — Morningside Drive, which from this point extends west to State Road 52, running between Pasco High School and the Pasco County Fairgrounds. The hospital, however, fronts on the yet-to-be-built eastward extension between Fort King Road and U.S. 301....
07/15/15 Local Government
PORT RICHEY — Mayor Eloise Taylor, a practicing attorney and longtime good-government advocate in a city once known for political chicanery, died Tuesday evening at home from cancer. She was 74.
"She was an amazing, calming influence and what a huge advocate for Port Richey,'' said close friend Jim Priest, a former City Council member.
A one-time Port Richey city attorney, Taylor joined City Hall as an elected office-holder when she won a special mayoral election 13 years ago. She served until an election loss in 2005, but again won a special election to fill a mayoral vacancy in 2012. Voters re-elected her again last year in what she said would be her final term....
07/15/15 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County should build an 85,000-square-foot gymnasium in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel, then add outdoor sports fields, zip-line courses and other accoutrements in later phases to tap into an unmet need in the Tampa Bay region's sports tourism market.
The recommendations, contained in an updated report from Johnson Consulting of Chicago, also suggest that a public-private partnership could show a small profit by its third year operating the multiuse facility and reach a capacity of 127 events annually by year five....
07/14/15 Local Government
DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners are considering a budget for the coming year that maintains a steady property tax rate, increases the assessment for stormwater, and includes higher wages for sheriff's deputies and other county workers.
However, it includes no money for additional code enforcement officers, ambulance crews or a new fire station in the Watergrass area of Wesley Chapel, all of which had been suggested earlier this year by county staffers. Many proposed initiatives that came with annual recurring costs, like salaries for new personnel, failed to be included in the budget....
NEW PORT RICHEY – Pasco Republicans elected Randy Maggard to chair their executive committee Thursday evening, filling the vacancy created by the May resignation of James Mathieu.
Maggard, 52, a former chairman, had served as the vice chairman before Mathieu’s departure. Thursday night, at the Spartan Manor in New Port Richey, Maggard defeated Luis Rodriguez of Land O’Lakes by a vote of 69-28. His term expires in December 2016....
The Heritage Lake Estates neighborhood in west Pasco is a popular destination for high-profile, door-to-door campaigning. Jeb Bush visited twice as governor to champion his brother's presidential bids. Legislative candidate Richard Corcoran spent Election Day 2010 camped outside the clubhouse greeting voters, and Charlie Crist stopped by last year to woo the residents in this Republican stronghold....
The ongoing debate over charter government in Pasco County has Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley posing the question, “15 percent of what?’’
His inquiry refers to the number of petition signatures required to force a state-appointed Charter Commission that would put a mandatory charter referendum before voters.
State law is clear for candidates for public office in Florida. They must obtain signatures from 1 percent of the voters as determined by the book closing date from the prior general election....
07/07/15 Local Government
Changing the way Pasco County elects its commissioners from countywide seats to single-member districts will carry a $375,000 start-up cost for voting equipment, polling places and added personnel for Election Day.
That's part of the message Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley will deliver next week to the advisory group considering the merits of charter government for Pasco County.
"We don't have an opinion on this, but we have to educate these folks that there is a cost with this,'' Corley said Tuesday....
Pasco County will be getting a share of the multibillion settlement with BP over damages claimed from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but the exact amount remained a secret Thursday because of a judicial gag order.
“They’ve approached us with a number and the number is confidential,’’ said Pasco County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder.
The county claimed a little more than $8 million in past losses tied to declining property, fuel, sales and other tax revenues after the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up 50 miles off Louisiana on April 20, 2010. The 85-day ordeal spilled an estimated 172 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The county projected future losses at an additional $26.7 million....
WESLEY CHAPEL — More than three years ago, the Florida Sports Foundation offered Pasco County commissioners some free advice: Invest in a multipurpose gymnasium with accompanying outdoor fields to lure sports-related tourism to the county.
Now, a Chicago-based consultant that the county hired for $35,000 is poised to make a similar recommendation.
Johnson Consulting Inc., retained by the county in March to determine what kind of sports park the Tampa Bay market can support, is suggesting that Pasco pursue an indoor multipurpose facility of up to 100,000 square feet with three adjoining outdoor sports fields on 80 acres in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. The county is under a contractual obligation to develop a sports-related destination on the land, which was donated by the Porter family....
07/02/15 Local Government
Land O'Lakes has a lot going for it.
Just ask Sandy Graves, a director of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce, a member of that group's Community Affairs Committee, champion of the Heritage Park Foundation's successful push for funding for a stage and amphitheater at the rebuilt Land O'Lakes Community Park, and non-stop civic cheerleader.
She'll point out the exciting things going on at the Land O'Lakes library branch, including a maker space and a robotics team. Or at the new Sanders Elementary School, set to open in August as the Pasco School District's first STEAM magnet school focusing on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. The chamber has lined up volunteers, called the Steam Team, to help teachers move into their new classrooms....
07/01/15 Local Government
Pasco County is poised to go looking for land tainted with gasoline, motor oil, dry cleaning chemicals and other hazardous contaminants with a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Additionally, the federal government awarded the county a $195,000 grant to clean up contaminated land discovered during the construction of the Lewis Abraham Community Center at Stanley Park in Lacoochee. The county said it was the only community in the nation awarded both an assessment and cleanup grant under the $54 million federal program, commonly known as the Brownfields Program....
James Mathieu, who resigned without explanation last month as Pasco Republican Executive Committee chairman, says he gave up his leadership role because state Rep. Richard Corcoran and others he labeled the "local establishment people'' are undermining the party's authority.
The dispute centers on the decision in March by Mathieu and State Committeeman Bill Bunting not to renew the charter for the West Pasco Republican Club, a 400-member organization that had been in existence for more than 40 years. At the time, Mathieu wouldn't elaborate on the issue, calling it an internal party matter....
06/25/15 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County still has an image problem.
A majority of residents polled are unhappy with the county's overall image, appearance and code enforcement, and the longer people own their homes in Pasco, the less they like living here.
Those are some of the revelations in the 2015 version of the National Citizens Survey, a polling tool the county began using in 2009 to gauge public sentiment toward issues relating to quality of life and government services. The random poll of 328 residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points....
Katherine Johnson isn't a fan of the spotlight.
Too bad. There has been no escaping it these past several days as she winds down her 10-year tenure as president of Pasco-Hernando State College.
KMJ is everywhere. Her initials (with no periods) are on pennants, and her name adorns souvenir ceramic coffee mugs. She smiles from an illustrated timeline showing the college's decade of growth. Her photograph is in the newspapers. She accepted accolades last week at community receptions on each of the college's five campuses....