By Eugenio Torrens
Pasco County received $2.3 million in federal money, and how that money will be spent is already accounted for.
The money comes from a $160.6 million lump sum allotted to Florida by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on Oct. 13. The money is slated for community development and affordable housing for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.
George Romagnoli, Pasco County community development manager, said most of the $2.3 million Pasco is receiving has already been earmarked for several needs.
“A good chunk of that money is paying back a loan that we took from HUD to redevelop the Tommytown area in Dade City, so we have to pay back HUD because that was a big project, so we had to give a lot more than our annual allocation to do that,” Romagnoli said.
The $2.3 million comes in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
The CDBG is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The CDBG has been ongoing since 1974 and provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1209 general units of local government and states.
Romagnoli said the Tommytown project, which cost $13-14 million, means Pasco will be paying back HUD about $1 million per year.
Tommytown is one of the largest areas of low-income population anywhere in Pasco County.
“The area had no paved roads, not much public water and sewer, a very bad drainage. We went in there and paved the roads and instilled a utility line, put a new drainage system so it doesn’t flood anymore. We really tried to improve the living conditions of the people that live there; unfortunately the living conditions were pretty terrible,” Romagnoli said.
“Unfortunately building roads and putting water lines and sewer lines — that’s not a cheap process,” Romagnoli added. “We basically borrowed against our future block grant dollars so we could get enough money so we could do Tommytown.”
After the loan payback is cut out, $300,000 is going toward the Lacoochee community center. Romagnoli also said some money would go to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; to low-income people to get prescription drugs from the Good Samaritan Healthcare Clinic; and demolitions through the county.
Because of the current economic climate, the total amount of money coming in to the state — and the county — has been cut.
Romagnoli said the county was shorted about $500,000.
“That’s pretty significant for Pasco County,” Romagnoli said. “It’s been pretty consistent for a lot of years, but with everything that’s happening with the fertile budget, a lot of stuff is changing so it’s hard to say how much money we’ll get next year.”
Some of that money incoming from the HUD will go toward county public transportation.
Mike Carroll, Pasco County’s public transportation manager, said $230,000 was coming in CDBG funds for public transportation.
Although his department also felt the brunt of a tighter budget, he said this year’s amount was not a far departure from the norm. The total funding for paratransit services is $1.8 million, according to Carroll. The majority of funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“In the scheme of things, not very much because we have other funding sources that also are used to support — that funding is usually used to support paratransit services, which are the door-to-door services for those that live outside the regular transit bus service areas.”
Paratransit caters to those people that live outside of the jurisdiction of fixed-route bus services.
“It’s all spent throughout the year in support of these services,” Carroll said.