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Sides still far apart on Tommytown work

Published Sep. 10, 2005

(ran PC edition)

Pasco County and Dade City remain far apart in the struggle over who pays for what in a proposed $7.5-million improvement package for the Tommytown community outside Dade City's northern border.

Dade City commissioners on Tuesday considered the county's ongoing request for a $559,000 break on sewer impact fees, thought about providing discount services for the unincorporated area, and decided the county's math still needs an adjustment.

City Manager Doug Drymon said city staffers estimate Dade City would lose about $9,000 a year in the deal _ with the new customers on line _ as well as losing the $559,000 in impact fees the county wants the city to give back when the project is complete. For a kicker, the city would be giving away 110,000 gallons of daily sewage capacity of the 750,000 that it's spending $4-million to add at the state's insistence.

Unlike in new housing developments where home buyers pay for impact fees in the sales price, the Tommytown project is paid for by a federal grant that is supposed to provide help to economically depressed areas without costing the residents money in new fees.

The city is required to collect an impact fee for each new connection, regardless of who's paying for the work. The county wants Dade City to refund the impact fee money as a show of support for the project.

Dade City commissioners agreed the area in question is outside the city limits, and the County Commission has already promised to pave the dirt streets and bring sewer and water lines into the area, which has gone without county improvements for decades.

Mayor Scott Black pointed out on Tuesday that the city is not in a financial position to help pay for an area outside its limits, especially when the city is already spending millions on upgrading a sewage treatment plant that will handle the needs of the 78-block Tommytown neighborhood and has spent money to pave the nearby roads that are inside the city limits.

"I definitely think we are a long way from making any commitment to the county," Black said. "I don't want to see us come out the bad guy where they can't live up to their commitment."

Drymon said city staffers met with Pasco officials earlier this month, but from the city's perspective, the numbers still don't add up. Even the county's claim that the city will benefit by gaining new sewer customers doesn't wash, Drymon said. Instead, the additional customers will cost the city money because of improvements needed at the sewage treatment plant.

And despite the help of grants, the city still might need to raise sewer rates to pay for the sewage treatment plant improvements, Drymon said.

"If we're giving away all the money, that's not very good fiscal management," Black said.

Commissioner Lowell Harris gave Drymon his instructions for the next meeting with the county: "Keep negotiating."

In other business, city commissioners agreed to seek out the information used by other area governments when they set transportation impact fees _ fees paid by builders as they erect a new home or business to offset road costs.

Dade City's rate of $500 per new home, set in 1990, is far below the rates of other governments. Pasco County charges $2,166; Zephyrhills charges $1,535.

Drymon said the figures in Dade City need to be adjusted. Commissioners suggested staffers gather more information on how other governments defend their costs if questioned by builders and return with the information at an upcoming meeting.