© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002
Editor: A very important issue is about to come before Pasco County commissioners for action within the next few weeks. I am referring to the request from Dade City and Zephyrhills for the county to renew the contracts under which each city provides fire protection service to certain taxing districts. There has been a great deal of discussion and debate surrounding these contracts, with both sides (city and county) being accused of attempting to play the issue to its own advantage.
Numerous editorials and letters have been published offering support to one side or the other. Left unanswered in this discussion is the question: What kinds of public services do residents want or need? Perhaps equally important, what is the best approach to use to provide these services in a cost-effective and efficient manner?
For the past decade or longer, Pasco County has been undergoing a rapid transition from a rural county to an urban county. Providing new roads, schools, water and sewer infrastructure, recreational facilities, libraries and a multitude of other urban services has severely stretched the county's financial resources despite the imposition of impact fees and a large increase in the tax base brought about by the construction of thousands of new homes and businesses within the county. New growth (with all its demands) has sprawled across Pasco from the coast through Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel to Zephyrhills, and is now moving toward San Antonio, St. Leo, and ultimately Dade City.
People moving here from other areas such as Tampa, Pinellas County and other heavily urbanized areas are accustomed to, and in many cases expect, a level of service that is comparable to what was available to them in the areas from which they came. Cities are accustomed to providing a higher level of service -- that is one of the primary reasons for their existence. Furthermore, cities are generally able to provide these services more cost-effectively.
The simple reason for this is that their compactness allows them to spread the cost of services and major capital improvements over a greater number of customers or clients within a given area. And finally, as commented upon by others, cities tend to grow over time (in terms of area as well as population). This means that in the future there will be residents and businesses currently residing in unincorporated Pasco County who will look to one of the county's six municipalities for a significant portion of their public services, due to annexation.
The good relationship that presently exists between the residents and property owners in the fire tax districts and Dade City and Zephyrhills may stem in part from this civic pride, and from the fact that city officials are very much aware that at some point in the future these folks may become city voters.
At 7 p.m. today, the Greater Dade City and Zephyrhills Chambers of Commerce will be holding an open public forum to discuss the issue of fire protection within the fire tax district served by Dade City and Zephyrhills. The forum will be held at the East Pasco Adventist Education Center at 38444 Centennial Road. I strongly encourage anyone having an interest in this issue to attend the forum and hear the facts. Then please voice your opinion to the County Commission.
-- Doug Drymon, City manager, Dade City
Editor: I would like to thank my volunteers and contributors who helped make this an exciting and very close election. Our campaign was blessed to obtain close to 60 percent of the votes in Pasco. Sometimes the voters say no, sometimes they say yes, and, in my case I believe they said not quite yet, but soon!
-- John Legg, New Port Richey
Editor: When we reflect back upon the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it is impossible for one not to conjure up mental images of the utter horror and devastation wrought upon our people. On that day, we saw the face and felt the hand of evil.
But we also saw the extraordinary courage and goodness of people and felt their compassion through the outpouring of support and patriotism.
I am so proud of the way our community, while diverse in race and faith, came together as Americans, united in purpose and indivisible under God. While we have been successful in being a united community for many years, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, have served to draw us even closer.
And so, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the attack, let us renew our commitments to harmony in our community, strength in our nation and faith in our God.
-- State Rep. David Russell Jr., Brooksville