05/17/17 Local Government
Dan Biles draws inspiration from Walt Disney.
''It's kind of fun to do the impossible.''
The quotation is on a placard sitting on a shelf in Biles' office. It was a gift from colleagues during his time as public works director in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"I love that quote,'' Biles said, "and it is fun to do something that nobody thinks you can do.''
Disney isn't his only motivation. Biles' Twitter account shows frequent posts about leadership and performance....
05/17/17 Mass Transit
LAND O'LAKES — Christie Zimmer likes to ride the bus for fun.
Getting from her home in Lake Padgett Estates to the bus stop at Collier Parkway and State Road 54 can be the hardest part. But from there, it's smooth riding — on what Pasco County calls its cross county route between Trinity and Zephyrhills — to the Shops at Wiregrass or the 16-screen movie theater at the Groves in Wesley Chapel. ...
DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners want to expedite improvements planned for the traffic-choked intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in central Pasco.
Last week, commissioners, sitting with elected municipal officials as the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization, formally asked the state Department of Transportation to transfer a little more than $1 million from a right of way acquisition account to a construction fund for the state's 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2018....
Neighbors are interested, but the owner isn't. So Pasco County will not be preserving the site of a proposed mine as ecologically sensitive land.
The owner's response came last week during a meeting between Lew Friedland of Seven Diamonds LLC and Keith Wiley, Pasco County's natural resources manager. Nearby resident Bob Howell had nominated the 143 acres, targeted by Seven Diamonds as a lime-rock mine, to become a candidate for preservation under the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program....
05/10/17 Local Government
If you're watching the Tampa Bay Rays on TV next season and spot a couple in the stands wearing Rays gear, even though the game is in Arlington, Texas, Seattle or some other far-flung location, take a close look at the fans.
You could be getting a glimpse of retiring Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker and her husband, Bill.
Out are the worries about drainage, budgets and public safety. Now the concerns focus on driving, baseball and national parks....
Florida will earmark $15 million toward a new interchange at Interstate 75 and Overpass Road in Pasco County under the proposed state budget plan.
That funding highlights the Pasco-specific appropriations in the $82.4 billion budget plan agreed to by legislative leaders and approved Monday by the House and Senate. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who could veto all or portions of it.
"I can't see why anyone would not want to see this go through," said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. ''The interchange is a regional project. It's definitely an economic driver, and it will alleviate traffic backups and congestion for our residents."...
After a nearly two-hour work session Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners agreed to proceed with the School Board's full request to nearly double the amount charged on new home construction, with the revenue going to new schools made necessary by the growth.
The commission killed the idea from their school impact fee advisory committee of tying the fee amount to a future sales tax referendum....
NEW PORT RICHEY — A proposal from home builders that would tie greater school impact fees in Pasco County to a voter referendum on a higher sales tax has some significant detractors — county commissioners and the home-building industry itself.
In a May 1 letter to the County Commission, the president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association said the trade group supported increasing the education impact fee by $2,300 per newly constructed single-family home, an increase of 47 percent....
05/03/17 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners want to put more ambulances on the road, keep libraries open longer and perhaps take less money out of your pocket if you go to a county park.
What they haven't figured out is how to pay for it all, particularly against the backdrop of rising law enforcement costs and the prospect of a $12.5 million cut in property tax revenue in 2019.
"We have to be very thoughtful in the process with anything that's reoccurring,'' County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said after commissioners spent Tuesday morning listening to budget pitches from their own staff....
NEW PORT RICHEY — A $1 million state grant and a connection to Pasco County Utilities was supposed to curb the tap water troubles for the Summertree neighborhood.
"Our water quality has actually gotten worse and now threatens our health and safety," Ann Marie Ryan said in an April 21 letter to state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Wilton Simpson.
Ryan is the leader of the Summertree Water Alliance, which has worked for years to improve the quality of water for 1,200 customers in the neighborhood south of State Road 52 in west Pasco. The residents, clad in red T-shirts, had become frequent visitors to the Pasco Commission chambers, complaining about expensive, dark-colored, sulfur-odored water they said was unfit for drinking, bathing or cooking....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Federal environmental regulators have given initial approval to the planned route for the Ridge Road Extension, a proposed 8-mile, four-lane highway linking west Pasco to U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes.
The Army Corps of Engineers notified Pasco officials last week that the county's preferred route, a nearly $102 million highway elevated through portions of the Serenova Preserve, is considered the "least environmentally damaging practical alternative.''...
DADE CITY — An alternative energy company is proposing to build and operate a 90-acre, 15-megawatt solar panel farm in rural Pasco County.
ESA Renewables, headquartered in Castellón, Spain, is targeting property — purchased in 2016 by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and his wife, Kathy — for a solar photovoltaic production facility.
The land, with a Ramsey Road address but abutting Blanton Road, previously had been owned by a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. It had been the proposed site of a controversial housing development called College Hill because of its close proximity to the Pasco-Hernando State College campus outside Dade City. That proposal never came to fruition after running into stiff opposition from local residents advocating for rural protections for the undeveloped northeast portion of the county....
LAND O'LAKES — A group talked transportation in a college classroom (study) amid a crowd of onlookers who filled every seat (capacity) and looked for additional space (congestion).
But, not all of the messages were that subliminal.
The group, a reconvened citizens task force trying to figure out how to best move vehicles along the State Road 54/56 corridor, also heard a blunt assessment or two during its meeting last week at Rasmussen College....
NEW PORT RICHEY — The court battle over the former Gulf Harbors golf course is heading to its second round.
Circuit Judge Declan Mansfield has denied Pasco County's motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Gulf Harbors residents Susan Levine and Diane Theriault Kobernick, who are challenging the validity of the purchase.
"Fabulous,'' Levine said when she learned of the ruling. "We'll have to see what (Pasco's) answer is to our complaint.''...
04/26/17 Local Government
DADE CITY — Typical Pasco County water customers will get a break on their bills in the coming year, but the financial reprieve could be short-lived.
"Smoke and mirrors,'' County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said after learning that a planned rate reduction could be offset after a single year by price indexing that would increase the utility rates beyond their current level.
Consultant Stantec Financial Services Group reviewed the proposed rate schedule for commissioners during a Monday workshop. The plan calls for slight reductions in the combined water and sewer bills for 64 percent of the county's residential customers. Those customers, using between 3,000 and 12,000 gallons of water monthly, would see their bills drop between 19 cents and $3.50....