The City of Dade City has identified four legislative priorities to present to the Pasco County legislative delegation at its upcoming annual meeting.
The session is for Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Zephyrhills City Hall, 5335 Eighth St.
The public and representatives of various interest groups are invited to present their requests to the delegation before the 2022 Legislative Session begins.
Pasco’s delegation includes State Reps. Amber Mariano, Ardian Zika and Randy Maggard; and State Sens. Wilton Simpson, Ed Hooper and Danny Burgess, respectively.
The Dade City Commission is seeking state funding for these key priorities:
- Morningside Drive Extension: $8 million
- Meridian Avenue/21st Street/St. Joe Road-Suwanee Way Intersection: $4.2 million
- Wastewater Transmission Forcemain: $4.7 million
- Wastewater Treatment Plant Relocation — design and permitting: $1.75 million
The four projects are described, in a staff memo, as elements that would foster “an overall favorable effect on our local and regional economic development efforts.”
The city document explains how the municipality’s economy has been “greatly enhanced” through redevelopment efforts during the past several years.
But it also underscores the town’s “many challenges” that are related to its aging infrastructure systems and its large percentage of nontaxable properties.
The memo also mentions “the need to attract more business, industry and residential rooftops to help improve its local economic situation.”
Dade City, incorporated in 1889, has a population of about 7,400. It is the county seat of Pasco County.
Here’s a more detailed look at the priority projects:
Morningside Drive Extension
The primary aim of extending Morningside Drive is to relieve Clinton and Meridian avenues by providing additional eastbound and westbound travel options for residents and visitors. But the extension also would provide direct east-west access for AdventHealth Dade City.
The proposed roadway also would accommodate new development, improve emergency response times and serve as a corridor for the extension of utility services.
City leaders, however, were surprised when they learned the project’s expected cost.
The city received $5 million in state appropriations in 2019 and is now asking for an additional $8 million. That money, if awarded, would go toward securing necessary right of way and constructing the road.
The initial $5 million is paying for a route study, design and engineering of the project.
Meridian Avenue/21st Street/St. Joe Road-Suwanee Way Intersection
Officials say a roundabout would greatly improve efficiency and safety at this five-point intersection on State Road 52.
The project is promoted as a gateway to assist the town’s central business district and surrounding neighborhoods. It also is expected to provide a better traffic pattern for city and county residential subdivisions that are approved to be built west of the intersection.
City Manager Leslie Porter told commissioners that state legislators in the district have encouraged the city to submit the project for funding.
This comes after the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) narrowed the original project’s scope and pushed it back on their priorities list, she said.
The intersection request will call for a full roundabout to best leverage safety factors, Porter said, and therefore would most likely require the acquisition of right of way, hence the $4.2 million price tag.
Mayor Camille Hernandez labeled this asking price as “much more realistic” compared to some lower estimated costs thrown around in prior meetings and discussions surrounding the project.
Wastewater Transmission Forcemain
In simple terms, construction of a new wastewater transmission forcemain will direct wastewater to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The $4.7 million project is designed to foster growth in a financially disadvantaged community, too, officials say, with a secondary benefit being the reduced need for septic systems to serve commercial and residential growth.
The city manager told commissioners that staff also is pursuing a separate grant opportunity for the force main initiative.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Relocation — design and permitting
Dade City currently owns and operates a 1.5 million-gallons per day (MGD) wastewater treatment facility situated in the heart of the environmental justice Mickens-Harper neighborhood.
But this current facility site is built out with no room for expansion or upgrades to accommodate a higher level of treatment, officials say.
Meanwhile, the city is experiencing an increase in development that will impact future capacity.
The project also is slated to benefit the environment and impaired water bodies — Withlacoochee River Basin, Big Gant Canal — into the Hillsborough River Basin through implementation of a three-stage biological nutrient removal process.
Aside from seeking $1.75 million in state appropriations for design and permitting, Porter told commissioners the city is pursuing alternative means to see the entire project through.
“This is, you all know, a large project, so we’re looking at every possible funding source we can,” Porter said.
After the commissioners reached consensus on their priority projects, at the commission’s July 27 meeting, the mayor encouraged city stakeholders to attend and take part in the upcoming delegation meeting.
Hernandez — who plans to attend — urged that whoever speaks on behalf of the city keep talking points on the projects “very brief and to the point,” as more in-depth presentation materials can be sent to legislators’ aides ahead of time.
“We learned that brevity is a good thing, especially at those events,” said Hernandez. “There’s lots going on. It’s one after another for (the legislators), so it’s a pretty busy day.”
Porter concurred “a very brief script” is the way to go when addressing the delegation.
Hernandez went on to point out there’s no indication any or all of the projects — some carryovers from prior years — will get sponsored for state funding. “They may all go by the wayside, (or) something may get picked up,” she stated.
Commissioner Scott Black offered optimism regarding the possibility of securing state funding for the designated projects.
Published August 25, 2021