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Port Richey, Pasco County at odds over road repair

PORT RICHEY — A small stretch of crumbling road is creating mounting animosity between the city of Port Richey and Pasco County.

Fixing the deteriorating conditions on Orange Grove Avenue, a residential road with split ownership between the county and Port Richey, has been a source of discussion between the two governments for some time. It's located off Washington Street east of U.S. 19 and is the lone access out of a small subdivision in the city on Candlelight Court. The county owns about 650 feet of the road from Washington to Walnut Street, with the city maintaining 160 feet from Walnut to Candlelight Court.

But a plan to refurbish the road by splitting the $40,000 cost between the city and county has fallen through, said Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill, criticizing a Sept. 23 vote by the Pasco County Commission to deny funding for the project.

County Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the funds, and Chairman Jack Mariano sent a letter stating its special assessment program for residential road repair is the way to go, with city residents on Candlelight Court pitching in to repair the road.

"While the (commission) fully supports a paving assessment approach to the project, it must include city residents to be palatable to county residents," Mariano wrote to O'Neill.

O'Neill shot back saying he is "not pleased" with the decision and argued that the county should be able to find a way pony up $20,000 to fix the road, which the city manager said is nearly impassable for police and fire vehicles. He added that a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase recently passed by the commission was promised to go toward road projects such as Orange Grove.

"One would think that if the City of Port Richey offers to fund 50 percent ($19,000+) of the cost of paving and improving Orange Grove Avenue (a county road) on its $10,970,242 budget that Pasco County could find a way to make this happen in its $1,209,005,209 budget," O'Neill wrote to Mariano.

O'Neill is also passing on an offer from the county for the city to take over ownership of the county's Orange Grove stretch.

"It doesn't work for me to take over the road and also take over all facets of the repairs," O'Neill said.

Port Richey City Council member Nancy Britton put it in starker terms during a meeting in June, when the city decided to send the commission a resolution calling on Pasco to come through with funds for the project.

"That's pitiful. It's just awful that we cannot get them to go forward with such a small project," she said.