The Tunnel to Towers Foundation (T2T) welcomed U.S. Army Specialist Jerome Rillera into his new smart home in the Do Good Village in Land O’ Lakes. The T2T program builds specially adapted, mortgage-free smart homes that help the most catastrophically injured veterans and first responders reclaim their day-to-day independence. Rillera served in the U.S. Army Signal Corp and during his military career earned numerous accolades including Soldier of the Month. While in combat in Vietnam, Rillera came into contact with Agent Orange, resulting in PTSD, almost complete vision loss, and hearing damage. In recognition of the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, T2T provided 22 mortgage-free homes to heroes nationwide. Rillera, left, stands alongside retired Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Lt. Peter Daniti.
The Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved a proposed bicycle route through Pasco County to be part of the U.S Bicycle Route System.
The countywide transportation planning agency has agreed to a route proposed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which is working to expand the national bike route system.
The draft enters Pasco on the Withlacoochee State Trail, then goes to U.S. 301, Christian Road, Powerline Road, Frazee Hill Road, 14th Street, U.S. 301 and State Road 39.
The route going through Pasco is U.S. Bicycle Route 15, which will be a designated route for cyclists traveling through the Florida Gulf Coast.
Currently, the route is only in southern Georgia, 92 miles from Fitzgerald, Georgia, and in northern Florida, from the Georgia line to Madison.
The proposal is to extend it from Madison to Miami, which is 496 additional miles, according to materials in the Pasco MPO’s agenda packet.
The Pasco MPO’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee recommended approval of the proposed route, with the caveat that Pasco has safe alternative routes in addition to the route chosen by the national group.
Pasco officials favor the extension of the national bicycle route through the county because it fits in with the county’s tourism development goals.
Published September 20, 2023
Pasco County Utilities customers will be paying higher water, wastewater and reclaimed water bills, effective Oct. 1, according to a county news release.
The average residential customer, using 6,000 gallons of water and sewer each month, will see a billing increase of $2.47 — going from the current charge of $83.68 to a new charge of $86.15.
Residential reclaimed water customers also will see small increases in the reclaimed water base charge and the Back-Flow Prevention Device fee as follows:
Reclaimed Water Base Charge: increasing 40 cents, from the current charge of $11.39 to a new charge of $11.79, for the first 10,000 gallons.
After that, the charge will increase 4 cents — from the current rate of $1.14 for every additional 10,000 gallons to a new rate of $1.18.
The back-flow prevent device fee also is increasing. It is going up 22 cents, from the current fee of $6.20 to a new fee of $6.42.
A full list of rates and fees is available online at bit.ly/pcurates – scroll to the middle of the page.
A four-year rate schedule went into effect Oct. 1, 2021, with changes adopted from a Cost-of-Service Rate Study approved by the Pasco Board of County Commissioners. The study includes projected annual adjustments to service rates, fees and charges through Sept. 30, 2025.
Visit PascoCountyUtilities.com for more information about Pasco County Utilities services.
Published September 20, 2023
The Tampa Bay region emerged relatively unscathed by Hurricane Idalia, as its path veered off to the north of us.
Of course, some areas suffered damage — but it wasn’t the catastrophic disaster here that it could have been.
Still, hundreds of thousands of people across Florida lost power.
In fact, any time the electricity goes out, it begs the question: What’s for dinner tonight? What’s for dinner tomorrow night? And, what about breakfasts and lunches?
Shoppers cleared shelves of some items at many stores, or had already stocked up their pantries with canned vegetables, jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna and other things — yes, I am talking about you, potato chips.
But do you have a plan for how to use these items?
Meal planning shouldn’t go out the window when prepping for a natural disaster.
Your hurricane food should be well thought out, just as your family’s weekly menu during normal circumstances should.
Of course, when the electricity is out, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to satisfy everyone’s taste, especially among picky eaters.
But the main goal is to stay full and to keep nutrition in mind, so you don’t just fill up on cookies.
Here are some suggestions to help you weather a storm.
Be sure to have enough food and water on to last between three and seven days.
When preparing meals, begin with using perishable food items first since they will spoil if not used quickly.
So, once the storm clears, you can grill your meats — outdoors.
If you have cold milk, use it early, too, so it will not go to waste.
When the power goes out, a fully stocked freezer keeps food frozen for up to 48 hours, and a half-stocked freezer for 24 hours. Food in the fridge is safe for four hours.
An insulated cooler with ice can keep food cold for a few days, but test its reliability before a storm hits, as some brands are more heavy-duty than others.
A thermometer for the cooler is necessary to ensure it stays below 40 degrees F.
Be sure you have a separate cooler for meat and foods eaten raw if possible, or place the meat in a leak-proof container or bag and place at the very bottom.
The cooler should be packed with several inches of ice or with frozen-gel packs.
Block ice lasts longer than ice cubes.
Before the storm arrives, you can create your own blocks of ice by cleansing used milk or water jugs, filling them with water and freezing them.
Be careful when using dry ice to keep your foods cold.
Heed any boil water notices, and make sure to have hand sanitizer for washing hands in case there’s no water supply.
Also, don’t forget to stock up on disposable eating utensils, can opener, trash bags, aluminum foil, paper plates and bowls, storage bags and so on.
For post-storm meals that don’t involve cooking, keep in mind the different food groups and how you can incorporate them into snacks or meals.
For instance, here’s some information about those food groups, from a colleague from Broward County Extension, that you might find useful:
Grain group: cereal, crackers, breakfast bars, rice cakes, bread, dried pasta, taco shells/tortilla shells, bread sticks, graham crackers, pretzels
Vegetable group: canned vegetables and soups, canned three-bean salad, fresh vegetables: tomatoes, avocado, onions, peppers, cucumbers
Fruit group: canned fruit in their own juices, dried fruit, trail mix with fruit, unsweetened applesauce, packaged raisins, fresh fruit: apples, bananas, pears, oranges
Dairy group: powdered, canned, or shelf-stable milk, shelf-stable pudding, nutritional drinks
Protein group: peanut butter, bean spreads, packaged nuts, beef or turkey jerky, canned: tuna, ham, salmon, sardines, chili, ravioli, and beans (kidney, black, lentils, etc.), pumpkin/sunflower seeds
Cooking a few things in advance adds more options too, such as pasta, quinoa, hard boiled eggs, or rice and just storing them in the cooler to eat cold.
You can also wash and chop fruits and vegetables in advance while you still have water and power.
While we know the “hurricane classic” meals like tuna with crackers or peanut butter sandwiches, there are more creative options too.
You might have seen disaster prep cookbooks, either as a hard copy or viewing articles and PDFs online (though hard copy is more power-outage friendly).
Check out the cookbook from Florida International University Student Health and Wellness: https://dasa.fiu.edu/all-departments/healthy-living-program/_assets/docs/resources/huricanecookbook.pdf
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute ofFood and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Recipes for days when the power is out
Basic Oatmeal (serves 1)
½ cup instant oatmeal
1 cup shelf-stable milk
1 teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar
Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes
Banana Crunch Wrap (serves 1)
1 whole wheat tortilla shell
2 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 Tbsp chopped banana chips
1-2 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
Can also add granola for more crunch.
Spread peanut butter on shell, add other ingredients, and roll
Simple Chia Pudding (serves 1)
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup shelf-stable milk of choice
2 Tbsp syrup, honey or brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 30-60 minutes until it forms a pudding consistency.
Can also add fruit and nuts.
Lunch or dinner ideas:
Sweet Three Bean Salad (serves 6)
28 oz. can of vegetarian baked beans
16 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can corn kernels
½ cup canned pineapple juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of cinnamon
Mix everything into a bowl and enjoy
Bean Burrito (serves 1)
1 whole wheat tortilla
½ cup refried beans or black/pinto beans
¼ cup salsa
½ cup canned spinach, drained and patted dry
1 Laughing Cow wedge
Spread cheese in middle of tortilla, then add beans and remaining ingredients and roll
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Vegetarian Baked Beans (serves 4)
1 can candied yams or 15 oz sweet potato puree
½ cup shelf-stable milk of choice
Butter spray 1 Tbsp canola oil
28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
Combine sweet potatoes/yams, milk, and butter/oil. Serve with ½ cup baked beans.
Lentil Tacos (serves 1)
2 soft or crunchy corn tortillas
½ cup cooked canned lentils
2 Tbsp salsa
¼ tsp each of garlic and onion powder
¼ tsp dried chili powder
Pinch of salt
Chopped onion, lettuce, or avocado, if desired
Combine lentils with salt, salsa and spices. Put lentil mixture in shells and serve with toppings.
Published September 20, 2023
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey wants the county board to create an ordinance aimed at reducing the spread of invasive species.
She raised the issue during the county board’s Sept. 5 meeting.
She suggested the ordinance she’s recommending should describe what should be done when invasive species are discovered on land that is being developed.
She’s particularly concerned about the presence of cogongrass.
Cogongrass, she said, is one of the most invasive species in the world and said it is not easy to eradicate.
Pasco County Commissioner Seth Weightman said he thought the board had already dealt with the issue when it requested the county to develop some best management practices relating to its right-of-way mowing contractors.
County Administrator Mike Carballa responded: “Those things on our side of the house were taken care of, and we put money in the budget for eradication in some of our areas.
“But to the commissioner’s point, when it spreads, it becomes the county’s problem, so you want to stop it at the source. I would need to research to see if that’s something you do at the site development stage, I don’t know. There’s some land development rules that we would have to consider with that. We’ll take it for action and report back to the board.”
Weightman added: “I would have thought that would have been inferred from the previous conversation.”
But Starkey said: “We never did anything for the private sector.”
Starkey noted that the Southwest Florida Water Management District deals with cogongrass immediately because they don’t want it to spread.
“They eradicate it right away,” she said.
Starkey added: “I’m telling you, it will be a huge nightmare, if we don’t get it.”
Published September 20, 2023
Columnar Holdings recently announced the sale of $80.5 million in bonds for DoubleBranch, a mixed-use development planned for the southeast corner of Interstate 75 and State Road 52.
At build out, the project is expected to include 4 million square feet of industrial space; 750,000 square feet of office; more than 500,000 square feet of destination retail and a multifamily neighborhood to support the new development, according to a news release.
At completion, DoubleBranch is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs, including many in the logistics, life sciences and health care sectors, the release said.
Its long-term economic impact is estimated at more than $30 billion, the release added.
“Columnar prides ourselves on being at the forefront of development trends,” said Michael Wolf, senior vice president for Columnar Holdings. “The land is situated alongside a major highway in one of the most desirable locations in Florida. Since purchasing it in 2021, there has been a strong desire across markets to live and work in centrally located communities,” he continued.
Phillips & Jordan, a national leader in heavy civil construction with regional headquarters in Pasco County, has been selected as the site contractor for DoubleBranch.
“The impact of diverse job creation will open tremendous opportunity for Pasco County for generations to come,” Sean Froelich, COO of Columnar, said in the release.
Columnar expects a groundbreaking ceremony to take place in early fall.
Published September 13, 2023
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office has observed an uptick in crimes related to technology and is offering residents some advice on how to avoid falling victim to such scams.
“Criminals commonly use fear and technology schemes to try to con their victims. Most scams are different variations of the same old trick: try to intimidate people into handing over valuable information or hard-earned money,” a sheriff’s office posting says.
The PSO shares these ‘red flags’ to help people to avoid becoming victims:
- Scammers often pretend to be from an organization you know, such as a government agency.
- Criminals make demands or requests for your personal information, such as social security numbers, account numbers or credit card information.
- Fraudsters will pressure victims to act quickly to resolve a problem in one phone call.
- Wrongdoers make requests for specific forms of payment that are difficult to trace, such as gift cards.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office advises that if you are skeptical about suspicious behavior that may be a scam, call and report it to law enforcement immediately. Rapid reporting can help stop crime, and protect others from becoming a victim.
Published September 13, 2023
Boy Scout Troop 12 in Lutz is planning a gathering to celebrate its 90th anniversary.
The event is set for Sept. 9, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Troop 12 is inviting the community to join them at a festival that will include food, activities, raffles, contests and more.
The event will be held at the Troop 12 Scout Hut, 205 Second Ave. S.E., in Lutz.
Attendance is free.
Published September 06, 2023
Pasco County has been reimbursed for the Mobi-Mats it installed at Moon Lake, Anclote River, Robert K. Rees Memorial and Robert J Strickland Memorial beaches.
Mobi-Mats are roll-out surfaces that provide access onto the sand of beaches for those with mobility disabilities.
The costs for the Mobi-Mats and associated signage were covered by a donation totaling $29,041.45 from the Michael and Robin Lally Forward Foundation, which reimbursed Pasco County after it installed the Mobi-Mats.
The county secured the funding after a county employee saw a newspaper article about the Forward Foundation offering to pay local governments to install Mobi-Mats.
Within a week of hearing about the opportunity, the county’s Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department reached out to the Forward Foundation to seek funding.
The Forward Foundation agreed to reimburse the county for the Mobi-Mats it installed to provide access to people who have suffered a stroke or brain injury, who are pregnant, who experience balance issues, who have developmental disabilities, who have gait irregularities, who have neurological conditions, or weakness, or who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices.
The Pasco County Commission formally received the reimbursement of the funds from the Forward Foundation during a board meeting over the summer.
Published September 06, 2023
Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers Motorcycle Club Tampa Chapter honored World War II Army Veteran and Buffalo Soldier Roy J. Caldwood, a 100-year-old New Tampa resident. On Aug. 13, Caldwood, a Bronze Star recipient, was given the special honor during a ceremony at Grace Episcopal Church of Tampa Palms, 15102 Amberly Drive. Prior to the presentation, the Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle Club did an honorary ride to the church to honor Caldwood.
Caldwood served as a Buffalo Soldier in World War II, encountering German infantry and Third Reich soldiers in Italy. He was a medic, taking care of his brothers in arms in the 92nd Infantry Division Reconnaissance Troop Second Platoon.
“I will say this,” Caldwood told The Laker/Lutz News in May, “it was a hell of a experience, a once in a lifetime experience, and what I learned was how it felt to live in a free society and a colorless society — because in Italy, it was color blind. You never heard the word ‘color’ in the two years I spent in Italy.”