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Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles calls himself an optimist, but he is planning for the worst.
And while Pasco County has closed its libraries, beaches and senior centers, among other locations, Biles said he is not yet ready to join the call for people to self-quarantine in their own homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t want to take a step that may not be necessary based on the data we’re seeing,’’ Biles said Tuesday afternoon.
Pasco officials, he said, have had conversations with their counterparts in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties about a regional decision on stay-at-home orders. For the time being, however, following the federal recommendations to practice social distancing, to work from home if possible and other safeguards are appropriate, he said.
‘’People need to work. They have small business, they need to run them. They might have 50 employees working for them. We’ve got to kind of strike that balance between the two.’’
Told about noon-time visitors to Robert J. Strickland Memorial Beach Park in Hudson who didn’t acknowledge the “closed’’ sign, but still practiced social distancing, Biles said he was glad people were getting outdoors.
“That’s what we want. Maintain a safe distance. And frankly I want people outside. That’s why we left the parks open. We have a lot to offer ... go to a park.’’
Pasco County government cancels meetings
The Pasco County Commission meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 7 in Dade City has been canceled. A March 20 order also canceled all other public meetings under the commission’s authority for the following two weeks.
Regular agenda items scheduled to be heard by commissioners April 7 are now scheduled for April 21. The public hearings scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 7 are now scheduled for May 5 in Dade City. The Pasco Planning Commission meeting scheduled for April 8 is canceled, and those public hearings will be held at a later date.
For information, go to the county’s webpage at: bit.ly/PascoClosings
- Pasco County Utilities suspended face-to-face customer service operations at its offices in Land O’ Lakes and New Port Richey. Online services remain open. Drive-through services will remain open at both locations from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., where a utilities staff member can help customers and receive any necessary paperwork. The Dade City location will remain open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a complete list of alternative service options, go to: bit.ly/PCUServiceUpdate. For more information go to PascoCountyUtilities.com.
- Pasco County Public Transportation, which already suspended fates until further notice, is limiting the number of riders allowed on each bus. Drivers will allow 10 to 15 riders at a time, depending upon the size of the bus. To accommodate this change, PCPT will increase the number of buses on the busiest routes by reassigning them from under-used routes. This will result in a temporary suspension of service on Routes 18, 25, 31 and 41. Those routes cover: Cross Boyou Boulevard to Alt. 19; Gulfview Square mall to Chelsea Place; downtown Dade City to the Pasco Hernando State College campus in east Pasco; and on U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes and Lutz. Vehicles will be standing by to assist with overflow situations, and supervisors will be on-site at key locations as this transition occurs. For a complete list of PCPT route and schedule changes, see: bit.ly/PCPTRiderAlerts Additionally, PCPT will close the walk-up customer service window at 8620 Galen Wilson Blvd., New Port Richey.
- All Pasco County libraries are closed through April 5. Customers are encouraged to explore online resources at pascolibraries.org and click on the e-content tab to: borrow ebooks and audiobooks via Overdrive and Hoopla; stream movies, TV shows and the Great Courses library through Kanopy and Hoopla; enjoy thousands of episodes of high-quality kids’ content through Kanopy Kids; build a resume and get career help with LearningExpress Library; ask a librarian’ via our chat feature.
- The county’s senior centers are closed. All senior programs, activities, classes and meetings also are canceled until further notice. For information, call 727-834-3340.
- Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources closed beaches at the following parks until further notice: Anclote River Park; Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park; Robert K. Rees Memorial Park; Sunwest Park. Boat ramps at Anclote River Park and Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park remain open. Day use at Pasco County parks, open spaces and trails will remain open unless otherwise noted. The county closed its recreation complexes in Holiday, Hudson and Land O’ Lakes, as well as five community centers in county parks and the Starkey Wilderness Park Education Center. For updated park cancellations and closures, visit: pascocountyfl.net/parks
- Beginning Wednesday, March 24, Pasco County will close three community recycling drop-off locations at Anclote Gulf Park, 2305 Baillies Bluff Road, Holiday; Land O’ Lakes Senior Services Center, 6801 Wisteria Loop, Land O’ Lakes; and in Embassy Hills at 9512 Crabtree Lane, Port Richey. Residents can still take trash and recycling to the West Pasco Resource Recovery Center, 14606 Hays Road, Shady Hills, and the East Pasco Transfer Station, 9626 Handcart Road, Dade City. For information, see: pascocountyfl.net/181/Recycling
- All Pasco Animal Services events, including neutering and vaccination clinics are canceled through the end of the month. The animal shelter is open.
- The Historic Courthouse in Dade City and the Guardian Ad Litem offices on both sides of the county are closed.
- Lobby service at the Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office is suspended. No in-person transactions will be conducted in the county’s five offices: Gulf Harbors – New Port Richey; West Pasco Government Center – New Port Richey; Land O’ Lakes; Wesley Chapel; and East Pasco Government Center – Dade City. The offices will begin to provide certain transactions through drive-through services. These transactions are limited to automobile, boat and mobile home registration renewals, property tax payments and disabled parking permit applications. Dealers may drop off work and expect it to be ready within 48 hours. Look for signs directing you to the drive-through area of each office. Drive-through services will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
- The Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which includes Pasco and Pinellas counties, is suspending assorted proceedings and hearings. Proceedings that will be held will address only “mission critical” cases, such as first appearances, detention hearings, terminations of parental rights, issuance of warrants/authorization of wiretaps, and other emergency matters. However, the clerk’s office will maintain normal operating hours.
Cities in Pasco County
Dade City Manager Leslie Porter: “I think the situation naturally creates stress for people, but our employees are staying upbeat and positive. People know we have to deal with this, and our residents seem to be looking at doing their part. More than one person has told me they believe things will always work out, so I am not seeing a lot of negativity or people feeling defeated.”
- Future Dade City Commission meeting agendas will be limited to essential items. The next scheduled commission meeting is April 28.
- The city will only accept utility payments through the drop box by the entrance or via electronic methods. Envelopes and pens will be provided near the drop box for customers, but we encourage customers to use their own pens. Please write your name on the envelope, contact number, amount of payment you’ve placed in the envelope and your due date. City staff will record the payments on the same business day you drop off (prior to 4:00 p.m.) If you pay in cash, please try to enclose the exact amount due. Residents are encouraged to mail or pay their water bills online. Non-payment turn-offs are temporarily suspended.
- City parks remain open to the public, though the bathrooms are closed. Facility rentals and special events are canceled. This includes the City Market Place scheduled for April 4. Staff will not process special-event permits or parks reservations through April.
- For building permit and inspection services, the city is encouraging online permitting and either calling or emailing staff members with questions. All notary services are suspended, except for city-issued permits.
- The Dade City Police Department is closed to foot traffic, and has suspended fingerprinting services and canceled on-site meetings and tours.
- City officials are encouraging residents to log onto www.dadecityfl.com for updates on the city’s coronavirus response.
NEW PORT RICHEY
City Manager Debbie Manns: “I think things are going as well as possible. We have kept communications with our employees and residents as regular, honest and open as possible. As a result, I think there is less fear. We are in uncharted water, without question, so the best I can do is keep our plan up to date so operations reflect the best interest of our employees and protect our residents.”
- The next City Council meeting will be on April 7 and conducted electronically. Anyone wishing to speak on a particular agenda item must submit their comments to the city clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than April 6. All comments received will be read aloud by the city clerk during the meeting. Everyone is encouraged to watch the meeting online or through their cable provider. All work sessions are suspended until further notice.
- City Hall Services: Public access is allowed only to the following departments until further notice: Billing and Collections to establish new water service; Development Department to drop off development plans or pick up permits; Economic Development – grant paperwork may be dropped off through the drive-up window. All water payments must be made at the drive-up window or through the payment drop box.
- The New Port Richey Public Library is closed until April 1. Online materials can be accessed at www.nprlibrary.org.
- The New Port Richey Recreation & Aquatic Center is closed until April 1. The outdoor areas of the Recreation & Aquatic Center, including the outdoor tennis courts, skate park and outdoor basketball courts are open to the public.
- Police and Fire Department offices are closed to the public. All residential rental inspections are suspended.
- City playgrounds, park bathrooms and the splash pad are closed. All other areas in city parks are open to the public.
- Reservations for Peace Hall and picnic shelters are suspended until April 30. Call (727) 841-4560 for further information.
- The Public Works Operation Center, fleet garage, water plant and wastewater treatment plant are closed to the public. Call (727) 841-4536 for further information. Brush/debris pickup will continue at its regularly scheduled at this time.
- City officials urge residents not to flush anything other than toilet paper in their toilets. All other materials can cause damage to pipes and water treatment plants.
Port Richey City Manager Vince Lupo: “Our employees have been very receptive to the fact that we closed down the facility from outside contact because, of course, they have the same general fears as the public as to what is going to happen today or tomorrow. And the public, I think, recognizes we are doing what we can, given the decrees coming from the county and state. It’s not pleasant, but it’s the law.”
- Bathrooms in city parks are closed. City parks are open to the public with gatherings of 10 people or less.
- City Hall remains closed to the public, but the utility billing drive-thru window will remain open to pay utility bills and obtain permits. City Hall will remain fully staffed with employees available by phone and email to assist residents.
- The Police and fire departments are closed to foot traffic.
- City Hall has been closed.
- The city asks that customers making water payments use the drop slot on the middle door of the building. Please ensure customer names, account number, and addresses are included with payment for proper processing. Pens, paper and paper clips are available at the drop slot, if needed.
- For all other city business, please call 352-588-2127, or contact city staff via email. Staff will be available during normal business hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Town Hall is open for regular business hours.
A doorbell and intercom are available outside City Hall to limit interactions with staff.
City Manager Billy Poe: “We have seen a huge drop in the number of people coming to City Hall, so I think people are taking social distancing to heart. In fact, the latest thing I have heard from the public is questioning why we have kept the parks open. I really feel like people need access to open space to exercise or have a catch with their children. If people can practice social distancing I think we are okay. But that is something we have to evaluate every day. If we start seeing bigger groups congregating, we may have to take different steps.”
- City Hall lobby is closed, but utility billing and the building department can be accessed. Customers are urged to conduct business online.
- The Zephyrhills Library is closed and all programs are canceled.
- Events and reservations have been cancelled at Alice Hall and the Train Depot through April. All city parks remain open and monitored to prevent gatherings of more than 10 people.
- City Council meetings will be conducted via teleconference.
- Police and fire departments are closed to the public.
Other Pasco County announcements
- Withlacoochee River Electric Company: The cooperative has closed its offices to the public. This will in no way affect electric service, the agency said. If customers experience a service interruption, they should contact their local Cooperative office. Members can report an outage through the cooperative’s SmartHub app or on wrec.net.
- Saint Leo University has extended the university’s online course delivery for the remainder of the spring term and will postpone Florida commencement ceremonies. Classes are suspended for the residential campus in Pasco County and for the university’s many education centers throughout Florida. The university will remain open with support for students who remain in residence halls on its Pasco County campus. University officials are encouraging students to consider returning to their homes, and have extended the move-out deadline to June 1 to allow flexibility for students to retrieve their belongings from campus. Saint Leo’s Florida commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 2 at the Florida State Fairgrounds have been rescheduled for June 1. The Saint Leo Under the Stars graduation celebration and Baccalaureate Mass have been rescheduled for May 31.
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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
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