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Officials: Residents should share cost

Before they commit $10-million to refurbish almost 100 blocks of the down-at-its-heels Tommytown neighborhood near Dade City, a majority of Pasco County commissioners would like property owners to pay for part of the urban renewal.

At a meeting Tuesday night in Dade City, commissioners reaffirmed their support for installing new streets, lights and sewer and water lines for 78 blocks of Tommytown, a $7.5-million federally funded project first approved in 1998.

But most commissioners balked at the added $2.6-million cost of expanding the project to include 19 blocks south of Lock Street as proposed by Commissioner Ted Schrader last summer.

The board asked County Administrator John Gallagher to spend the next week exploring whether the county can assess property owners in Tommytown to pave roads. That would free federal dollars to expand the project south of Lock Street.

Commissioner Pete Altman, elected from New Port Richey, said the county rarely makes such improvements for free. Nor should it in Tommytown. "The people of this community should take ownership of this," Altman said.

Another west Pasco commissioner, Steve Simon, feared the county was biting off too much by expanding the project absent some type of contribution from neighbors.

"There's a lot of other areas that could use this dough," Simon said.

In requesting that Gallagher research paving assessments, commissioners also okayed Assistant County Administrator Doug Bramlett's plan to build and expand water and sewage treatment plants to handle Tommytown, Lacoochee, U.S. 301 and other areas.

Pasco first pitched the idea to Dade City's utilities department, but the city refused to reimburse the county $600,000 in utility impact fees it would have charged Tommytown residents.

Bramlett estimated the cost of expanding water and sewer service in northeast Pasco at $5.2-million, $1.7-million of which the county has yet to find.

Tommytown supporter Margarita Romo, head of the nonprofit Farmworkers Self Help, said neighbors have no problem carrying their own weight but complained that four years had passed since the money was first promised.

"I'm so worried something won't happen and we won't get what we need," Romo told commissioners.

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