In the same way that much of Pasco County’s explosive growth has turned inward to central areas, so should its government service centers, according to consultant’s report delivered to county commissioners on Tuesday.
The 665-page report concludes that serving the public for the next 20 years could require between $757-845 million in investment in new and renovated facilities. Those would include a new criminal courthouse complex in the Land O’ Lakes Public Safety Campus off Land O’ Lakes Boulevard with a price tag of at least $155 million.
Other additions to that campus recommended are a $119 million, 1,000-inmate expansion to the county’s detention center, which is currently undergoing an addition, a $41 million public safety operations center, a $25 million new centralized Pasco Sheriffs Office and an addition in the five years after the new courthouse is built, which would cost another $25 million.
The county already has determined how to pay for projects underway and planned in the next couple of years. It is work that would start in years six and beyond “where there is a difficult area from the funding perspective,” Andrew Baxter, the county’s facilities management director, told commissioners.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey listened to Baxter’s description of locations for the new criminal courthouse, new combined fire and emergency services facilities, storage and training centers and a new central operations center for the Pasco County sheriff.
She then asked where the hundreds of employees who would be working there would get lunch and how a sense of place would be established.
“I think we can do better,” Starkey said, calling the plan “very short-sighted and a little sad.”
Commission chairperson Jack Mariano agreed that those kinds of issues should be discussed. He said that it was discouraging that even at the county’s West Pasco facilities, the only food option without leaving the site was a hot dog truck.
But County Administrator Mike Carballa said that what commissioners were seeing was a layout of how the county could meet its future space needs. Baxter added that his task was to look at the needs assessment from a higher level, and that the details of what those new facilities would look like would come later.
He also said only the portion of the campus fronting Land O’ Lakes Boulevard would have public access. Other facilities there would be connected to corrections, the criminal courthouse and back-shop functions for public safety employees.
To develop the recommendations, the facilities consultant spoke with county staff, assessed existing spaces in county buildings and examined projections of the county’s future growth and needs, including the estimate that the county’s population could grow to 1,051,989 residents by 2041. They then mapped out a detailed description of how the county could handle future growth.
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Pasco’s last official census total was 608,794 in July 2021, Baxter said.
The phased plan includes new construction, repurposing old areas, selling properties not needed for the future and phasing in changes in nearly every corner of county government.
The study included not just employees of the County Commission, including public works, parks, utilities and other services that fall under the typical county umbrella, but also the Department of Health and elected constitutional officers and their facilities including the sheriff, clerk of courts and supervisor of elections.
Expansion of those offices, including adding more services in localized community areas, new fire stations and libraries, including one between Dade City and Zephyrhills and one in the Connerton area, are also recommended by the plan.