Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey is pushing Pasco County to increase funding for a new library, which is part of a collaborative project between the county and Pasco County Schools.
The project is to be built in the Starkey Ranch development, located on the ranch formerly owned by Starkey’s family.
The project includes a kindergarten through eighth grade school expected to open in August of 2021, a public library and a community black box theater.
The idea is to share the facilities, allowing the school to use them when it needs them and the public to take advantage of them when the school doesn’t.
The new school will be built next to the new Starkey Ranch District Park, which is off the main entrance into the master-planned Starkey Ranch community, in Odessa.
The first phase of the district park was built through an agreement between the county and Wheelock Street Capital, the developers of Starkey Ranch. The 80-acre park, now open for use, includes a lighted Little League baseball/softball field; three lighted multipurpose fields for soccer, lacrosse and football; a concession stand with restrooms and an additional restroom building; four picnic pavilions surrounding an events lawn; a playground; a maintenance building and a trailhead to the community’s 20-mile trail system.
When the district park is complete, it will have five additional lighted ball fields, lighting and groomed turf for the current practice fields, two additional concession stands with restrooms, and a 1-mile trail around the park.
Commissioner Starkey is advocating for an additional $1 million for the library project to help it to become a cultural center for the community.
“You know that there is a library that is being built that is the first one of its kind, a co-located library with the school district and the county,” she said, during the commissioner comments portion of the County Commission’s Oct. 23 meeting.
“And, I have been working with our staff and the school board’s staff as we go through iterations of the project,” said Starkey, who previously served on the Pasco County School Board.
“I will tell you first, the school district has been fantastic to work with, and they have found a way to add more amenities to the project. They have pulled the library a little closer to the school, and they are putting some of their square footage back into the library, and there are funds over and above the $12 million that we have allotted for it, and it will help us to get an outdoor area that the community can use for outdoor events, which would include alcohol, too, if we wanted, near the theatre.
“But, where we are short is on the Maker Spaces,” Starkey said.
The current plan calls for having one Maker Space and switching equipment in and out for various uses, Starkey said. It makes more sense to have additional Maker Spaces, to provide options to do a variety of activities without having to constantly roll equipment in and out, she explained.
“In talking with the school district, that is in charge of building it, and getting the architect, (Pasco Schools Deputy Superintendent) Ray Gadd thought we needed one more million dollars in order to be able to build three Maker Spaces at what will be the Cultural Center and what I think will be the new model for these kinds of buildings in the county.
“I hope to get one over on the east side, and Ray (Gadd) is already looking at sites where the county and the school district can share again,” she said.
The idea of having multiple Maker Spaces makes it possible for a variety of activities to be going on at the same time, Starkey explained. For instance, in one area, people might be doing pottery, while in another, they could be making jewelry.
Starkey suggested the county earmark $1 million of the $2,881,000 that Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano returned to the county that morning.
“I would love to see you approve that (million-dollar appropriation) to help make this building a premiere building and the beginning of a model that we should replicate throughout the county,” she told her colleagues and County Administrator Dan Biles.
Biles reminded the board “right now the (returned) funds roll into the bottom line and go into the fund balance and our reserves.”
Biles also told the board he’d like to see what happens during the Nov. 6 election before considering Starkey’s proposed budget amendment.
Cathy Pearson, an assistant county administrator, also told board members that she recently took part in a visit to the Carrollwood Cultural Center, in Hillsborough County, to see how that operates.
During that trip, she said, she learned that the theater planned in the Starkey Ranch project was too small.
The theater plan calls for 203 seats, but it needs to be 250, Pearson said.
In addition to the money that Fasano returned to the county, Paula O’ Neil, the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller, told commissioners she would be returning $465,381.24, but she did request the county consider providing a total of $100,000 to help four different agencies.
Published November 14, 2018