As Pasco County continues to grow, development interest has spread north, where housing, business and industrial projects have been proposed.
But there is a big problem. Pasco hasn’t expanded its wastewater system to the north. County leaders hoped that their neighbors to the north could help by agreeing to provide the service in return for payment.
This week, the Hernando County Commission unanimously rejected an agreement hammered out over the past year to provide wastewater service to developments in Pasco along the south side of County Line Road. At the same meeting, they did approve an agreement to turn over Hernando-owned property on County Line Road to the state in hopes that long-awaited widening of the road would come soon.
The two jurisdictions have been in a dispute over the two infrastructure projects for years.
Hernando officials have long seen the widening of County Line Road as a crucial project, but have been stung by comments from Pasco officials not interested in widening the shared roadway, which still has some two-lane sections.
Pasco sees adding vehicle capacity as more of a boon for Hernando since most of the use comes from the north, said Hernando County Commissioner Steve Champion this week.
Hernando has been equally reticent in helping Pasco with its wastewater needs on the Pasco side of the road. In 2017, Hernando approved a 15-year agreement to provide wastewater to Pasco County. But last year, when the first application was submitted for a Culver’s restaurant, Hernando canceled the agreement.
“Tell them to expand County Line Road first, then we’ll give them wastewater,” Champion said at the time. Hernando commissioners say it was never a priority for Pasco, which has focused on other transportation needs and explosive growth to the south.
“We’re taking their crap at wholesale. Why don’t they keep their crap,” Champion said. “How does this benefit us?”
Not long after, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a $50 million funding allocation to widen County Line Road.
This week, Hernando County commissioners again agreed that the road widening was needed as they voted to approve an interlocal agreement on the road with Pasco.
But Hernando County Administrator Jeff Rogers told commissioners that agreeing to giving the right of way for a widened road to the state was simply agreeing to “a thought and a future road project.” No roadwork is scheduled and there is no funding currently in place.
Hernando officials moved on to discuss the wastewater agreement and Hernando Commissioner Jerry Campbell, who is new to the job, asked why officials canceled the old pact.
Champion said that Pasco had enough impact fees to pay for its own sewer expansion. When Hernando approached Pasco about helping with County Line Road “the leadership wasn’t interested,” Rogers said. He added that it was Hernando that widened the three sections of County Line Road that have been completed.
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Once Pasco gets wastewater service on the south side of County Line Road, there will be a plenty of development along that stretch and more traffic on the road, Rogers said.
Campbell agreed, saying, “the floodgates will open.”
Not long after the unanimous vote to reject the wastewater agreement, Pasco commissioners, who were meeting at the same time, learned of the vote from Pasco Administrator Mike Carballa. The decision, he said, was “a blow to development on the Pasco County side of the line.”
“This was a very important agreement to us,” said Pasco chairperson Jack Mariano. “To see it not going forward is very disappointing.” He said he thought the move was only going to make the widening of County Line Road more difficult. If Pasco has to rip up the road in the future to put in new sewer lines run up from the south, the state is going to be less interested in road improvements.
“It’s kind of a sad thing,” he said.