Dade City has pushed another step forward to make the Roy Hardy Trail more tourist-friendly.
City commissioners have agreed to enter negotiations with Borregard Construction Inc., for the design-build of a visitor’s information welcome center, to be located on the south side of Church Avenue near the Hardy Trail multi-use trailhead.
Preliminary plans call for a building of 1,100 square feet to 1,500 square feet, with two family bathrooms that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The center will feature an open floor plan — allowing for vendor operations, area attractions, museums and art exhibits to host mobile displays.
The building is part of a larger exterior space concept that will feature a bike-share hub with stations for parking, minor repairs and public resting areas for cyclists and exercising pedestrians.
Commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Nicole Deese Newlon voting against the bid award, during a May 12 virtual conference call meeting.
The city received three bids for the project.
Borregard, a Dade City-based construction firm, garnered the highest average qualification score by city staffers for its proposal, scope of services and cost projections.
If the city is unable to come to terms with Borregard, it will turn to the second-ranked bid, WJCreate LLC.
Construction shall begin no later than July 15 and completed before June 2021, per the city’s
request for proposals (RFP).
The exact budget for the visitor’s center will be determined by the design of the structure and any necessary site improvements, officials say.
The city has received a $250,000 appropriation for the project from the Pasco County Tourist Development Council.
The visitor’s center will require additional public input and commission approval along the way, officials say.
The new amenity adds to Hardy Trail, which is currently being extended northbound to Lock Street. Commissioners have also expressed a desire to phase in more water stations, pet stations and even outdoor fitness stations.
In addition to the visitor’s center and bike hub, an adjacent downtown park is being planned, with features that could include a splash park, amphitheater, playground and more.
Leaders anticipate budget hit
Dade City Manager Leslie Porter told commissioners April statewide tax collection information will be made available May 25, giving city leaders a “first inkling on some of the impact” from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic.
While total figures are not yet known, decreases in sales tax, shared revenues and Penny for Pasco monies to the city are to be expected, she said.
Meanwhile, Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez said there’s general worry among Florida cities of all sizes about the negative fiscal impact related to COVID-19. She based that assessment on a recent conference call she had with the Florida League of Cities.
“The budget may be painful, and it’s very concerning,” Hernandez said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a small city or a very large city, we are all going to feel this in some shape or way or form.”
Adding to the hardship of what will likely be a tight budget cycle for the city is the fact there’ll be at least two new faces on the five-member commission following the June 30 municipal election.
Commissioners Newlon and Eunice Penix aren’t seeking re-election for their seats.
Commissioner Jim Shive is running against candidate Matthew Wilson for the Group 3 seat.
“It’s going to be kind of a real quick learning curve,” the mayor said.
Resident shares frustration with city upkeep
Speaking during the public comment portion of the virtual meeting, Dade City resident Bernice Thomas expressed her displeasure with city public works crews for not following proper 6-foot social distancing protocols and not wearing masks on the job.
The resident described one alleged incident on 14th Street near the Dade Oaks area, where city workers were “just sitting under the tree, talking without masks, and sitting right next to each other,” she said.
Thomas also criticized public workers for just “riding in air-conditioned trucks doing absolutely nothing.”
“It is absolutely disgraceful to me that our city has employees getting paid, but are not doing anything, “said Thomas. “COVID-19 has been an excuse to take time off, get paid, and still do nothing. We are taxpaying citizens who deserve better than we are getting.”
Thomas went on to mention the Dade City Merchant’s Association two months ago requested painted crosswalks, new signage and sidewalks cleaned, watered flowers and so on. “I haven’t seen anything being started yet,” she said.
She then blamed city department heads for not keeping tabs on city employees nor ensuring proper upkeep of the downtown district.
Said Thomas, “If the supervisors cannot manage their employees, maybe we need to seek out another employee who can be promoted to fulfill these duties. If the city manager cannot care for this city as if she lives here, maybe we need to find a new one.”
Responding to Thomas’ claims, Porter pointed out the city just received quotes on painting crosswalks, while city workers have now begun “an intense downtown cleanup,” including mulching, weeding, pressure washing sidewalks and more.
As for city employees possibly not observing proper health and safety measures, the city manager said: “Certainly, if we have new employees who are not observing the social distancing and following the protocols we will be addressing that, because that has to be one of our priorities, the safety of our citizens, as well as our employees.”
Published May 20, 2020