Dade City Police Lt. Robert Tungate was a guest speaker at The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce business breakfast meeting, held last month at Golden Corral in Zephyrhills.
Among his talking points during the Sept. 21 gathering was how the local law enforcement agency is managing the municipality’s impending residential and commercial growth and development.
About 6,500 new rooftops and several commercial properties have been approved to be built over the next two decades within city limits.
Homes soon will be popping up across all parts of the city, Tungate said, pointing to scheduled land clearings along Clinton Avenue and U.S. 301, St. Joe Road, and Roberts Road, among other areas.
With that, the local police official predicted the city’s population of some 7,000 residents will “probably” triple within the next five to eight years, and added, “that’s not counting all the amount of traffic that comes in every day to work, especially if we get all these new developments going on.”
“We’re going to swell during the daytime, and then when everybody goes home, we’re, of course, going to have all these rooftops,” Tungate said. “The houses mean more calls for police services.”
As the city balloons, so will its local police department.
The Dade City Police Department presently has five open positions, Tungate said.
One vacancy is due to a retirement, while the other four are newly funded positions in advance of the ensuing growth.
Other changes on tap include the launch of a Chaplain Corps program, to offer advice, counseling and assistance to police employees, particularly in times of crisis and otherwise.
At full strength, the city has budgeted for 27 full-time sworn officers for fiscal year 2021-2022.
This is a number the department hasn’t seen in some time, Tungate said.
To fill these positions, the agency is recruiting local colleges and universities wanting to land “top of the tier” applicants and hires, Tungate said.
To that end, Tungate shared the ongoing battle of being competitive and on par with other Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies in not only recruiting qualified officers, but preventing those from bolting for larger, more prestigious agencies once they gain some field experience.
“This new generation of cops coming in, they’re all saying, ‘What’s in it for me?’ It’s not like the old days where people get a job and they stay there,” explained Tungate.
“These guys are coming in, saying, ‘Hmm, this (agency’s) better, that (agency’s) better,’ for whatever the reason. Sometimes, it’s pay. Not always. Sometimes, it’s working next to a best friend, it doesn’t matter…”
Meanwhile, Tungate thanked the Dade City Commission and Dade City Manager Leslie Porter (who was among dozens in attendance during the meeting) for proactively directing more resources to the police department of late.
“The city manager has done a great job to recognize the need for our police department,” said Tungate. “If we keep growing like we’re growing, the city commission and city manager recognizes that we’re going to grow again.”
This has included increased wages and benefits for patrol officers, detectives and sergeants through new collective bargaining agreements between the city and the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, on behalf of the local law enforcement agency.
Moreover, city leaders recently approved increased public safety impact fees on new single family homes (now $449, up 375% from the prior $94) and retail units (now $462 per 1,000 square feet, up 52% from $304).
The measure was recommended by consulting firm Stantec, given the municipality hadn’t increased since 2004.
Additional revenues from the public safety fees will be used to address the police department’s increased costs of service delivery, operations, capital outlay, training and new equipment, including police vehicles.
The public safety fee hikes, Tungate said, “takes the burden off the city to have to come up with Penny (for Pasco) money or your other tax revenues” to fund local police operations.
Tungate is third in command of the Dade City Police Department and is responsible for the supervision of criminal investigations, forensics, property evidence and records and communications divisions, according to the city’s website.
The lieutenant of police administration also serves as the public information officer and is responsible for agency recruitment and professional standards. He also writes, tracks and manages grants; and supports the annual budget preparation process.
Pasco County District 1 Commissioner Ron Oakley also spoke during the breakfast meeting, offering general updates on some of the county’s roadway and development projects.
He took a mostly positive angle on the impending growth coming East Pasco’s way.
Said Oakley, “You’ve got all these homes coming into Dade City, guess what it’s going to do for the businesses in Dade City? It’s going to increase. The economic value of those homes, that’s going to pour into Dade City and make it better, so it’s a good thing for everybody.”
Oakley acknowledged more traffic buildup occurring in these parts, but pointed out supporting infrastructure like roadway improvements and schools can’t be furnished until residential developments and communities are built out and related impact fees collected.
Addressing the crowd, Oakley said, “I know you all know how much growth is happening in Pasco County, and a lot of it has moved to the eastern part of Pasco County, which for us, that’s a lot of new things happening. We want to be a premier county, and we’re going to do things the right way.”
Published October 20, 2021