Mayor delivers ‘State of Dade City’ address

A newly passed budget and some corresponding reorganization in city hall was a forefront topic for Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez in her annual “State of the City” address at The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce October breakfast meeting, at AdventHealth Dade City.

Dade City Commissioners last month passed a $19.3 million budget by 4-1 vote.

The 2019-2020 budget is based upon a 7.14 millage rate and represents a 17% increase ($2.8 million) from last fiscal year ($16.4 million).

Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez covered a lot of talking points during her ‘State of the City’ address. (Kevin Weiss)

The budget covers 83 full-time staffers, including several newly funded positions — community and economic development director, associate planner, GIS analyst, another building inspector, and others.

Addressing a roomful of chamber members, Hernandez said this year’s budgetary process “was one of the most difficult for me, as a city commissioner, as a mayor.”

“It was tough, guys,” Hernandez said. “We’re heading in the right direction, but we had to make some tough choices for not only the city and the services, but also position us in a great place to move forward and to all of those people that are coming in, all those transportation (issues), all those businesses, to be able to accomplish that.

“It wasn’t unanimous, but I think the majority of the commission agreed that we had to prepare ourselves for challenges and opportunities moving forward, and how are we going to make Dade City the best it can be.”

With that, the mayor noted the city last year received 658 building permits for private construction and now has over 4,000 residential unit entitlements (either under construction or review).

That underscores the necessity, she said, for the city to create a new community and economic development department that encompasses community redevelopment, current and long-range planning, online permitting and customer service, and building and safety services.

“We have a bunch of homes that are on the books, and they’re going to start to be built sometime next year,” the mayor said. “There’s a lot of work being done by staff, so this is the reason we needed to reorganize, we needed to make those tough decisions to hire some staff to get those folks help, to continue to move us forward.”

In addition to the budget as a whole, Hernandez offered updates on various capital improvements projects.

She noted that paving has begun on the second phase of the Hardy Trail northern extension, from Church Avenue to Lock Street, and is expected to be complete around next spring. The extension is part of a larger trail network planned for the U.S. 301 corridor extending from south of Zephyrhills to north of Dade City. It ultimately will extend to the Withlacoochee State Trail trailhead.

“We’re really excited about that,” Hernandez said. “We’ll be getting into some healthy initiatives, hopefully working with the banks and hospitals, and other organizations.”

Hernandez also mentioned improvements are “finally” underway to the city’s downtown stormwater management system, which is slated to be finished by sometime next summer.

Hernandez quipped: “For those that have businesses in town, for those of you that love your shoes like me, you won’t have to take them off anymore and go into 6 inches of water on any stormy afternoon.”

Other forthcoming projects include Tank Hill water facility renovations (finalizing request for proposal documents) and Dade Oaks stormwater improvements (finalizing funding and bid documents); the city also has allocated $200,000 toward paving or repaving city maintained roads. “There’s a lot of dirt moving around. I always say that’s progress, and I kind of like having the dirt picked out,” Hernandez said.

The city’s demographic profile was another one of the mayor’s talking points.

Hernandez said of the city’s 7,240 residents, the median age is 35.5 years old, with a growing number of first-time householders, newer marriages and families.

The average household size is 2.51, median household income is about $40,000 and median home value is about $145,000.

That in mind, the mayor stressed the need for the municipality to “maintain youthful interests in style and fun, with lots of things to do.”

She noted several community events — namely the Dade City Heritage & Cultural Museum’s Masquerade Ball, Monarch Butterfly Festival, Scarecrow Festival and Dade City Symphony — all happened within a weekend of each other.

“We are a fun place with fun things happening, and we are going to continue to do that as we move forward,” Hernandez said. “We’re not a town that’s going to roll up.”

Elsewhere, the mayor made it a point to commend the Dade City Police Department’s ongoing efforts to boost its community outreach and advocacy programs, especially with local youth.

Some of the agency’s regular initiatives include Shop with a Cop, Cop-sicle Days, Back to School Bash, Explorer Scouts, Special Olympics, and Habitat for Humanity, among others.

Hernandez put it like this: “It’s not only about having these guys show up and protecting them or leading someone off in handcuffs, but it’s showing them that they are an integral part of our community. They are human, they go home to a family, and you couldn’t imagine the change in some of these children when they realize, ‘Hey, these aren’t bad guys, these are actually good guys that are here to help me.’”

She added: “You don’t know how wonderful of a group of guys we have in our community.”

Published October 23, 2019

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