The end of East vs. West in Pasco County?

Over the decades, the cultural and geographic differences between the New Port Richey and Port Richey area on the west side, and the Zephyrhills and Dade City area on the east side have brought up the question of splitting Pasco County more than once.

But could the real solution be to just move the county government to Land O’ Lakes?

That’s exactly what private planning developer CGL is expected to tell Pasco County commissioners during a workshop Oct. 14 as part of a proposed 15-year expansion plan that will nearly double the amount of office space for the government, move much of that space to south central Pasco, and cost upward of $583 million.

In presentation materials sent to commissioners ahead of Tuesday’s workshop, CGL said the county government would have to increase its office footprint from 1.5 million square feet now, to more than 2.8 million square feet by 2034. The sheriff’s office would get the biggest benefit from that expansion, growing from more than 450,000 square feet now, to 1.1 million square feet in the next two decades.

Also needing more than twice the amount of existing space is judiciary offices from an existing 49,000 square feet to 117,000 square feet in 2034. Administrative offices for the courts would need to grow from 15,000 to 31,000 square feet, while public safety would expand to 364,000 square feet, and utilities to 68,700 square feet.

The administration offices for the county commission would need to grow only 29 percent to 28,000 square feet, CGL said, while storage space would actually drop 5 percent to a little more than 30,000 square feet.

The county also would have to consider upgrading or even replacing about 25 percent of its existing buildings, which CGL rated poor or very poor. That accounted for more than 210,000 square feet — or 11 percent — of existing space.

A lot of the new construction, however, would need to move from the edges of the county, and more in the center, CGL planners said. That could include at huge chunks of land around the Land O’ Lakes jail on U.S. 41, as well as about 30 acres of land in the Lutz area of the county along State Road 54 between Interstate 75 and the Suncoast Parkway.

If that didn’t work, CGL also suggested sites north not far from U.S. 41, through Land O’ Lakes, and even near State Road 52.

Field operations — like public works, fleet management, utilities and public transportation — would completely move out of the New Port Richey area, and instead find bases in central Pasco, the Dade City area, and the Shady Hills area.

CGL is recommending the county demolish 174,000 square feet of buildings, and selling 13 others — including the Hap Clark Building in Land O’ Lakes — that could generate about $7.4 million based on current value.

The highest priority structures in the first phase also are the most expensive. CGL is telling county officials they need to build a 1,000-bed detention center and a 12-courtroom criminal courthouse in Land O’ Lakes, that would cost between $206.2 million and $227 million.

Other plans in the first five years include eight fire stations, the first phase of a new centralized location for up to $26 million, and a $3.6 million renovation of the Hap Clark Building on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.

The second phase — beginning in the sixth year — lists the sheriff’s office administration building as well as two sheriff substations and forensics as the top priorities, costing up to $34.3 million. Eight more fire stations would be included, costing up to $16.5 million, while the detention center would receive a $41 million expansion to add 500 beds.

Lower priorities would include new libraries in Dade City, Wesley Chapel, and the east central portion of the county, for $12.7 million.

The final phase, in the last five years of the overall plan, would put the sheriff’s office at the top of the list again with a new Land O’ Lakes campus and vehicle maintenance facility for $19.3 million. It would include yet another 500-bed expansion at the jail, and the possible construction of a new District 4 substation for the sheriff.

How the county would fund all of that is a different question, but a lot of it is needed, CGL said. With Pasco’s population expected to grow 77 percent to more than 842,000 people in the next 25 years — and southern Pasco replacing the west side of the county as the most populous — county government will need to be ready.

The annual average cost to the county would be between $30 million and $39 million per year, according to CGL estimates. That is a little more than 3 percent of the county’s current annual budget of $1.2 billion.

The county commission is set to hear CGL’s presentation during a workshop Oct. 14 at 10 a.m., at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., in Dade City.

Pasco EDC honors local businesses for creating jobs

One day nearly a decade ago, Marcus and Erin Meyer realized their dream of opening their own business, kickstarting Gator Cleaning Solutions out of their garage. Not long after, it would move to a new home the couple bought in Land O’ Lakes, before finally taking up 2,500 square feet of warehouse space in Odessa.

DataMentors LLC, one of the Pasco Economic Development Council Industry of the Year winners, has maintained strong employee retention by finding ways to keep them motivated. Here Brandon Magliano, left, gets ready to receive the ball from Michael Meyers during a table tennis game in the office while Michael Cajigas looks on. (Courtesy of Larisa Bedgood)
DataMentors LLC, one of the Pasco Economic Development Council Industry of the Year winners, has maintained strong employee retention by finding ways to keep them motivated. Here Brandon Magliano, left, gets ready to receive the ball from Michael Meyers during a table tennis game in the office while Michael Cajigas looks on.
(Courtesy of Larisa Bedgood)

They employ eight people in their corporate office, and more than 80 people on cleaning crews that now include restoration services, carpet and grout cleaning.

They have provided plenty of jobs in the cleaning industry, and because of that, they are one of eight companies honored by the Pasco County Economic Development Council at its Industry of the Year Awards at Saddlebrook Resort.

“The reason why we were nominated in the first place is because there was a lot of focus on job creation, which is great, because we’ve created a lot of jobs,” Erin Meyer said. “And we’re still growing. It’s exciting — a little nerve-wracking at times, but it’s fun. There are days I’m pulling my hair out, and days I’m doing a dance.”

Pasco EDC honored Gator Cleaning with one of two service and distribution awards, the second going to A&K Energy Conservation in Dade City. They both were chosen from more than 30 nominees, who were judged based on growth in areas like technology, innovation, job creation, capital investment and community service.

While some companies were born and grown up in Pasco, others were attracted by what the county had to offer and relocated here. DataMentors LLC started 15 years ago in Tampa, but relocated to Wesley Chapel seven years ago on land they purchased on Oak Myrtle Lane.

“It’s kind of nice looking out the window and seeing trees instead of concrete,” said Bob Orf, the chief executive of DataMentors, which was honored with the technology award Tuesday night. “We took a little bit of a risk when we bought the land. There was no road to it when we purchased the property. We were the first building in this area, and it’s worked out terrifically.”

DataMentors is a data management company that requires a secure location for its many servers. The company started with five employees, but now has 36, working in areas like programmers and technicians.

“We do a lot of recruiting right out of colleges like the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida,” Orf said. “There are not a lot of high-tech companies in Pasco, but you know, we’re happy to be here, and be one of the pioneers here.”

Half the employee base lives in Pasco, while the other half commutes in from Hillsborough County, Orf said. That’s great for him, however, because the “reverse commute” — driving in the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic — makes working in Pasco quite appealing.

“We don’t have a lot of turnover here,” he said. “Almost a third of our employees have been with us at least 10 years. And, you know, we try to do what’s right for our employees, because that’s a win-win for us.”

Other winners at the Pasco EDC event included:

• MedActive Oral Pharmaceuticals of Odessa won the new business award.
• Rochester Electro-Medical Inc., of Lutz, and Seaway Plastics Engineering Inc., of Port Richey, both won manufacturer of the year.
• Pasco-Hernando State College in New Port Richey was given the special contribution award.
• Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative of Shady Hills was given the special recognition award.

Published September 3, 2014

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