Last night was the second workshop in a series being pushed by New Port Richey’s newly elected Mayor Rob Marlowe. The topic for the workshop last night was “Penny for Pasco” and Council members looked to discuss a number of ways in which those funds can be utilized.
City Financial Director Peter Altman began the meeting with a report on available funds. His presentation included an estimated revenue over the next ten years of $18,789,125. These funds can be used on Utilities, Transporation, Public Safety, Public Facilities, Economic Development, and Parks & Recreation.
A few ideas were highlighted multiple times during the discussion. The first was the purchase of secondary property to the Grey Park Preserve, specifically the purchase of a property to create a second pedestrian-only entrance at the southern end of Congress St near its intersection with Louisiana ave. Councilman Bill Phillips said he was very interested in the property “because right now we don’t have a front door the Grey Preserve… We would effectively have domain over the river from Grey Preserve all the way out to the bayou area.”
Mr. Phillips also suggested that the city borrow against the future revenue stream from Penny for Pasco to spend on projects now, in a move very similar to the one proposed two weeks ago by Pasco Economic Development Council. It should be noted that both plans would call for loans and interest that would need to be paid back.
Other Council members wanted to focus on expanding the Recreation and Aquatics Center, a project recently completed by the City with a hefty $14 million price tag–significantly higher than the originally planned $6 million. Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas discussed improving the children’s pool and a general expansion of the workout area. Mr. Phillips suggested improvements to parking.
Mrs. Thomas also discussed a comprehensive plan that was commissioned many years ago for a unified facade theme on downtown buildings to improve the “historic element of downtown” which was never adopted.
Mayor Marlowe focused on the redevelopment of the Hacienda but both he and City staff believe the funding would come from sources other than Penny for Pasco, including State and Federal historic grants. As such, the Council decided to move the majority of discussion on the Hacienda to a later meeting. There is an upcoming workshop in two weeks on Sims Park and Orange Lake.
Lastly, City staff discussed the proposed bike trail on Marine Parkway which would connect the Pinellas trail to the Suncoast trail through downtown New Port Richey. A state grant was pursued last year on that project which requires matching funds of $200,000. The trail is likely to be the cheapest of the projects discussed.
As part of the bike trail project Mr. Robert Rivera, the City’s Public Works Director discussed LED fixtures being installed by Duke Energy as part of the negotiations between Duke and St. Petersburg to improve lighting infrastructure. Duke is beginning to embrace the cheaper, more efficient lights. Interim City Manager Susan Dillinger cited St. Petersburg’s push to change the pay rate of the lights which would reduce cost and revenue to Duke Energy, which has been the major reason that Duke Energy has refused to include the technology to this point.
Other interesting notes of the meeting included the possibility of a geological survey of Orange Lake and possible improvements to the ecological condition of that area. There was some speculation that a sinkhole may be located under the lake or that the lake may be connected to the Florida Aquifer. In addition, Mr. Bill Phillips suggested that New Port Richey received less overall Penny for Pasco funds because the City had not annexed any property (become larger) and the City of Zephyrhills has.
By Jon Tietz
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NPR Report: City Council Workshop April 29, 2014