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Officials from cities go to work

The leaders of the county's municipalities try to reach consensus on common issues.

City leaders from Pasco's six incorporated areas gathered Thursday for the second time to discuss novel solutions to common issues and to form a unified lobbying force before the county commission.

But where the inaugural meeting of the Municipal Association of Pasco was more conceptual, Thursday's quickly got down to brass tacks.

The assembled leaders agreed to send a letter to county commissioners outlining the purpose and structure of their organization, supporting the county in its latest attempt to limit billboards and encouraging a fast track for the widening and extension of State Road 52.

"I think we should congratulate them for having the wherewithal to confront this problem," New Port Richey Mayor Peter Altman said of a recent commission vote that placed a moratorium on new billboards and seeks to ban outdoor advertising.

Dade City Mayor Charles McIntosh, who chaired Thursday's gathering, agreed.

"We should write the county and commend them and pledge our continuing support on that issue," he said.

New Port Richey played host to the group on Thursday. Twenty elected representatives and several city managers gathered for the second meeting of the organization designed to foster cooperation between cities and give the collective a stronger voice with the County Commission.

McIntosh suggested the group should ask for ways to assist county leaders before inviting them to address any specific problems, a position Port Richey Mayor Eileen Ferdinand seconded.

"To invite them only when we have an adversarial issue before us I think would be wrong," she said.

San Antonio Commissioner Roy Pierce suggested lending the group's support to efforts to speed construction on SR 52 and perhaps seeking ways to extend state roads east to Orlando.

The municipal association's steering committee will draft a statement of support for the road project that will be considered by the various councils for forwarding to the county.

A crucial issue the group planned to address next was that of annexing enclaves, small fingers of unincorporated land surrounded on at least three sides by cities but technically are still part of the county.

"It's established state policy to eliminate enclaves," New Port Richey City Manager Gerald Seeber said. "And it's good planning policy to annex them because in many instances we provide the services anyway."

But, he added, objections from all quarters can be strong: The county often is reluctant to cede transportation impact fees and potential fees for fire protection, while landowners often oppose paying additional city taxes.

The association will tackle annexation and the location of county offices and facilities constructed with tourist development funds at its November meeting in Zephyrhills.

Also expected to be on the agenda are the issues of east-west road access, the increasing cost of animal control services and a discussion on fire and emergency services.