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Residents stranded by floods get lifeline

Pasco County commissioners came through Tuesday for a neighborhood marooned at the end of a flood-prone road north of Zephyrhills.

After residents complained last week about the huge ponds that form on Friar Tuck Trail _ and after a fire inspector warned rescue trucks couldn't drive on the road _ commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to spend up to $9,000 to repair the surface.

Then, County Administrator John Gallagher said, the county will encourage homeowners to pay off $700 in back taxes on the road, obtain ownership of it, and turn it over to the county. Eventually, residents may elect to have it paved with an assessment to each resident.

"I think that would work. I think we would want to do something like that," resident Laurie Barriger said after the meeting. "It would raise all of our property values."

Gallagher said a county inspection of Friar Tuck Trail found the road was in terrible condition.

Based on the fact that Zephyrhills Fire Department Capt. Inspector Rex Guynn told commissioners that his department couldn't get a rescue truck through deeply flooded roads, County Attorney Bob Sumner said the county could make a one-time emergency repair, even though the road is not on the county's system.

Friar Tuck Trail is inside the Zephyrhills fire district, just south of Otis Allen Boulevard.

When they presented their case to commissioners last week, neighbors provided photos of the road after heavy rains, when floods stretched from edge to edge. In one photo, a resident was pictured paddling a canoe.

Part of the reason the road fell into such disrepair is that no one owns it, Gallagher said. The builder never turned it over to a homeowners association or paved it and gave it to the county.

No one has paid taxes on it, so the county is listed as the owner. But Gallagher said to correct the problems, someone will have to pay the back taxes, then legally transfer it to the county.

Commissioner Ted Schrader joked that Valrico tax deed speculator Don Connolly might be involved. Connolly has been in the public eye recently for buying up strategic parcels at tax deed sales, then selling them back at exorbitant prices to desperate homeowners living nearby.

"Mr. Connolly doesn't own the road?" Schrader asked.

Barriger said she left Tuesday's meeting happy.

"It seems like we got something done," she said.