Advertisement
  1. Pasco

You now can forget that higher boat fee in Pasco

Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano pulled the plug on his idea to increase boat registration fees to help pay for channel dredging in west Pasco. If projected costs match the expense of the 2005 dredging of Hudson Channel, above, the price to dredge seven channels could top $50 million, county staff members have said. TIMES (2005)
Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano pulled the plug on his idea to increase boat registration fees to help pay for channel dredging in west Pasco. If projected costs match the expense of the 2005 dredging of Hudson Channel, above, the price to dredge seven channels could top $50 million, county staff members have said. TIMES (2005)
Published Jun. 24, 2019

NEW PORT RICHEY — County Commissioner Jack Mariano has pulled the plug on raising boat registration fees in Pasco County.

"It's really not much of a source (of money). To cause dissension around the county is not the way to go,'' Mariano told fellow commissioners in a June 18 meeting.

His comments came two weeks after the commission debated, but reached no resolution, on Mariano's proposal to increase the cost of registering a boat in Pasco County with the extra revenue earmarked for dredging coastal canals in west Pasco.

The idea of a higher fee rankled some boat owners using fresh-water lakes in central Pasco, rather than navigating canals to the Gulf of Mexico. They welcomed Mariano's decision.

"I'm glad the county did the right thing, said Christie Zimmer of Land O' Lakes. "That shouldn't be the burden over every constituent.''

"I have mixed feelings. I would love it to happen for the people who are over there, but I don't think it's fairly appropriated,'' said David Hipps, owner of Land O' Lakes Marine on U.S. 41.

The measure faced a tough sell on the dais as well. Commissioners Mike Moore and Mike Wells Jr. both expressed reluctance. Wells suggested any fee increase money should go to boat ramps, not dredging. Moore questioned the benefit to boaters living away from the coast.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey expressed initial support for the idea, but later backtracked.

"I do think that dredging the coastline here is important for the county,'' Starkey told the Tampa Bay Times in October. "I think people from all over use the boat ramps to put their boats in the water, and having channels that are navigable benefits the whole county.''

But she sent an email to a Times reporter earlier this month after the newspaper published an online account of the June 4 commission debate.

"I am not in favor of lake boaters paying a fee,'' she said.

Likewise, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said via Twitter that the commission needed to state clearly who was responsible for the higher fee.

"Our office will collect whatever fee the Pasco Commissioners decide. We only ask they make it clear that they decided to impose the 50 percent rate hike and NOT the Pasco Tax Collector office. It will be our phones that will ring off the hook, not theirs,'' he tweeted.

The state allows counties to charge an optional boat registration fee that equates to a more than 40 percent surcharge. The fees vary according to vessel size. The state fee to register a so-called Class 1 boat measuring 16 to 26 feet — the most common vessel in Pasco — is $33.50. Adding the county registration fee increases the cost by $14.38 from which an additional $1 goes to the state for manatee protection.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, boaters registered more than 24,000 vessels in Pasco County in 2016. Those registrations would have generated approximately $220,000 to the county if it had the optional fee. Thirteen Florida counties, including neighboring Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk, charge the local fee.

Initially, legislators believed Pasco County needed state permission to use the proceeds for dredging. During her re-election campaign last year, Commissioner Mariano's daughter, Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, said getting that approval would be her top legislative priority for 2019. Later, state lawyers said the county didn't need the state's blessing to raise the fee for dredging costs.

The debate surfaced because Pasco confronts the to-be-determined cost of dredging west side canals. Private consultant Dewberry recommended in 2017 that the county complete a dozen dredging projects at a cost of up to $13.5 million. Later, county staffers said the cost could be as high as $51 million if the expense of removing sediment and rock from seven channels matched the spending in the 2005 Hudson Channel dredging.

A more accurate cost estimate is unknown, because no in-depth engineering analyses have been conducted, the county has said.

Last week, commissioners agreed to schedule a public session with boaters, property owners and others to brainstorm ideas on how to advance the dredging proposals.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. A "for sale" sign beckons Friday along Sixth Avenue N in the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg.
  2. Dale Massad appears in court for a motion hearing on his bond status on March 14 the at West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey. Massad is charged with attempted murder after authorities said he shot at a Pasco County Sheriff's Office SWAT team.
  3. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  4. A wrong-way driver headed south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Pasco County caused a crash that resulted in the death of a 45-year-old motorcyclist, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.  Over a three-year period ending in 2018, the county averaged 97 traffic fatalities annually. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. New Port Richey City Hall
  6. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  7. The attendance zones for Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Fox Hollow elementary schools would shift under a proposed rezoning that also includes the closing of Hudson Elementary.
  8. Brian Davison is chief executive officer of Equialt, which bought this Safety Harbor home in a tax deed sale. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission contends in a new lawsuit that EquiAlt is a Ponzi scheme, and Davison has diverted investor funds for his own lavish personal spending. Times (2015)
  9. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  10. The fields are set for the April municipal elections in Pasco County. Times (2012)
  11. The developers of Avalon Park West in Wesley Chapel are planning a $736 million downtown core to accompany nearly 2,700 residences and 355,000 square feet of commercial and office space in a walkable neighborhood. . As part of the deal, Pasco County will consider kicking  in a $33 million 30-year incentive, mostly a tax rebate to help with infrastructure costs.
  12. Pasco County commissioners introduced an ordinance Tuesday governing upkeep of empty property after residents complained about the condition of the Links Golf Club in Hudson, which closed in June 2019.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement