Section of Dade City gets upgrades to roads, sewers
By Kyle LoJacono
Margareta Della Penna has lived in Tommytown with her husband Marcus for nearly 30 years and they remember what the old area looked like not that long ago.
“Worst road,” Della Penna remembered. “Holes, gaps and very bumpy. Our son (Sal) and his friends would come home with cuts on their legs because they would fall trying to skateboard on the road. … There wasn’t a sidewalk for them. Just dirt.”
Della Penna said Sal always had at least one, and usually three or four, bandages on his legs because of the falls. Sal is now 28 years old, but if he ever gets the desire to pull out his old skateboard, he will have a much smoother ride.
That is because Pasco County completed an improvement project in the Dade City community on Feb. 8. The nearly $8.5 million project, paid for by a federal loan, followed a smaller but similar project to help the impoverished east Pasco County community.
The job included adding sidewalks along Lock Street, also known as Calle De Milagros, between 14th and 21st streets while repaving the road, adding seven miles of roadways and putting in additional storm water and sewer infrastructure. It also removed 15 run-down houses.
Pasco commissioner Ted Schrader, who represents most of east Pasco, said the county did the project to make the area look better in hopes the residents would continue with improvements to their own property. Schrader said that mission is being accomplished.
“We’re seeing people keeping their land much nicer and renovating their houses,” Schrader said. “I’m seeing a lot more pride in the community’s appearance.”
Della Penna is among those.
“It does give us more pride,” Della Penna said. “We’ve always liked living here, but it wasn’t nice to look at. With the old buildings down and the new roads, it is much nicer. We got three new bushes and want to put in some trees.”
Amalie Rodriquez lives near Della Penna and has plans for her house as well.
“New paint,” Rodriquez said. “I want new paint. We have some neighbors who just had theirs painted and I want the house to look good too.”
Rodriquez said it is also a relief to not have the dirt from the old, unpaved road constantly flying in the air.
Tommytown was established in the 1940s, mainly as an area for the workers of a now closed citrus packing plant, according to community activist Margarita Romo. Today, the area is home to mostly migrant workers who labor in the orange groves and various fruit and vegetable fields in the area.
While the community’s appearance has been upgrade, many in the area cannot afford to use the new sewer lines.
Charlene Daprile, Pasco assistant manager for community development, said state money was originally going to be used to pay the impact fees for Tommytown property owners. However, budget cuts have changed those plans since the project started in 2002.
Daprile said a homeowner pays about $5,000 per year for those impact fees. She said the county is working with federal housing services to secure funding so the residents of Tommytown can enjoy all the improvements.
“It would be a shame to have new lines that were too expensive for the residents to use,” Daprile said. “We’re still working on it.”
Additionally, Daprile said the original federal loan was for $13.6 million. The remaining money will be used for improvements to the Lacoochee, Kent Grove, Gulf Highlands and Moon Lake communities in Pasco.