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New Port Richey to polish its image

(ran PW, PS editions)

Despite a tight budget year, New Port Richey officials are proposing a number of initiatives to promote the city's image and ease its redevelopment pains.

New Port Richey's $34.4-million budget, unveiled this week, includes money to create two key jobs: a public information officer and a construction plans examiner.

"One of the frequent requests we hear from people is it's hard to get a permit, we don't know what to do, we need help," City Manager Gerald Seeber said Thursday.

The examiner job was recommended "to allow more time for the staff to provide assistance to unsophisticated applicants who are seeking a development order," he wrote in a memo to council members.

The examiner would work in Development Services to speed up permitting and plan review. The person would check smaller commercial and residential plans to ensure they comply with state building codes and city land use codes.

The goal is to help people less familiar with the permitting process, ". . . especially those applicants who may not have a good understanding of the nuances of the city's somewhat inflexible zoning requirements," Seeber wrote.

The job would cut the number of variance requests heard by the City Council _ an issue that spurred leaders to revisit the city's sign ordinance last month.

The 2003-04 budget also carves out $100,000 for a public information officer to promote the city. The money could also be used for consultants in lieu of hiring a staffer.

An information officer would plug New Port Richey's redevelopment program to homeowners, investors and the business community.

"It's an issue council has discussed for 10 of the last 15 years," Seeber said.

Duties would also include writing news releases, editing the city newsletter, coordinating public opinion surveys, updating the city Web site and preparing information guides on city services.

The job is also designed to answer questions about utility projects and to push community-oriented policing and water conservation efforts.

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