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Bid for Port Richey boat ramp twice what city council expected

City council members decide to ask Pasco County to help pay for the ramp repairs.
Port Richey is considering imposing boat launching fees at Nick’s Park. The parking lot at the riverfront park is particularly busy on weekends. [Times (2014)]

PORT RICHEY — Repairs to the Nick’s Park boat ramp are not going to happen anytime soon as questions remain over funding for key waterfront improvements.

Port Richey City Council members voted Tuesday to reject a lone bid of $289,000 from Midcoast Construction Enterprises for repairs to the popular boat ramp, which has deteriorated due to heavy use. The bid came in way over the city’s projected budget of $120,000, causing council members to pause and to put the project back out to bid.

The funding discrepancy led to a wider discussion among council members about whether they want to pay for the repairs without seeking funding help from Pasco County. They also talked about charging a fee to users of the park, a 1.2-acre spot at 7929 Bayview St., in the heart of the city’s waterfront district and the area’s prime boat launch into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have to revisit a fee structure," Vice Mayor Will Dittmer said. "Right now, it’s just a drain on us,”

The council decided to ask Pasco County to help fund the repairs. Dittmer referenced a city study, which found that 90 percent of the boat traffic at the park is generated by users who live outside the city limits.

“There should be an open dialogue with the county to see if they are willing to pay for some of this,” Mayor Scott Tremblay said.

The boat ramp discussion came as the city is awaiting a key decision by the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners about how to divvy up federal monies stemming from the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal Restore Act dedicates the company’s civil financial penalties related to the spill back to affected communities.

In 2015, Port Richey was slated to receive $667,000 in federal Restore Act funds to begin dredging two waterfront canals and for construction of a boat ramp and parking. Eventually, the city scaled back its plan when it became apparent that dredging the canals would take up its entire funding allotment.

As a result, the funding fell into jeopardy. County commissioners voted on Nov. 5 to cancel their agreement to provide the Restore Act funds and called on Port Richey to submit a new plan for consideration. The city has since submitted a plan to use the funding solely for dredging the canals.

Tremblay said Tuesday that the matter likely will come before county commissioners in March.