A downtown Dade City splash pad? Commissioners say yes.

Dade City, Florida  ALICE HERDEN | Special to the Times
Dade City, Florida ALICE HERDEN | Special to the Times
Published Aug. 14, 2019

DADE CITY — City commissioners agree that they'd like a downtown park with a splash pad in Dade City. But a discussion this week about grant funding for a park led to a wider discussion about where it will be located and how much it will cost.

During a meeting Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-1 to apply for a state Community Development Block Grant offered to small cities for up to $700,000. If awarded, it would pay for playground equipment for the proposed park.

The commission has long made building the park a top priority. Recently, the city discussed acquiring land near the Dade City Chamber of Commerce building on Eighth Street, south of Meridian Avenue and west of Seventh Street, owned by businessman Otto Weitzenkorn.

City officials are poised to meet with Weitzenkorn to discuss obtaining about 3 acres of land for the park, with hopes they can work out a donation, Dade City community development senior planner Melanie Romagnoli told the Tampa Bay Times.

Mayor Camille Hernandez called the prospect of getting the downtown land and the grant funding a "game-changer."

But Dade City Commissioner Nicole Deese Newlon, who cast the lone vote against the grant application, said she is "not sold" on the Weitzenkorn property as the location.

She is in favor of building a splash pad in the city and seeking grant funding for playground equipment, she said, but she believes a land donation is a long-shot. During a recent budget workshop, she said the staff presented a possible figure of $850,000 to buy the land, which she believes would be cost prohibitive.

Instead, Newlon has advocated for building the park on city land, such as the former police department/city hall properties downtown, sites the city could act on immediately at little cost.

Newlon has concerns about seeking grants without specific numbers as to how much the splash pad and the rest of the park will cost.

"If we don't have a specific location yet, and we don't know how much it is going to cost, I really think we are putting the cart before the horse here," Newlon said.