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Group of 11 to rank lands to conserve
The Penny for Pasco tax will fund a program formed by the County Commission to help protect environmentally sensitive sites.
By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published July 28, 2004
DADE CITY - In an effort to preserve some of the dwindling habitats and shrinking green spaces in the nation's 100th fastest-growing county, the County Commission on Tuesday adopted its first program to buy environmentally sensitive land.
The Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program or ELAMP, will be funded by the Penny for Pasco sales tax hike that voters approved in March. The county has earmarked a quarter of its sales tax proceeds - an estimated $36.3-million over 10 years - for conservation land.
Under the program, anyone can nominate a piece of property for consideration, as long as the owner signs a form agreeing to negotiations. An 11-member panel will meet every quarter to rank the properties for the County Commission, which will make all final purchasing decisions.
State Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Wesley Chapel, praised commissioners for creating the program. By putting some of its own money on the table, Pasco County is more likely to get matching grants from the state, Littlefield said.
At the same time, Littlefield told commissioners at the historic courthouse in Dade City: "I urge you to craft that program based on scientific research," to make sure the county makes wise decisions on which tracts to buy.
At least five members of the panel must have a science background. With the exception of one lay person, the other members must have real estate, business or financial expertise.
The members of the Environmental Lands Acquisition Selection Committee are:
Eva Bailey, vice president and senior ecologist with Biological Research Associates.
Robert Blanchard, owner of Little Everglades Ranch and former president and chief executive officer of WRB Enterprises Inc.
Betsy Davis, senior environmental scientist and professional associate with HDR Engineering.
Patty Fesmire, senior environmental analyst at Tampa Bay Water.
Clark Hull Jr., environmental program director at Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Ed Lawlor, professional nature photographer and lineman for Progress Energy.
Chris Miller, environmental science professor at Saint Leo University.
Brian Panico, senior environmental scientist with Scheda Ecological Associates Inc.
Stephen Peacock, vice president of environmental services with Florida Design Consultants.
Jennifer Seney, executive director of Pascowildlife Inc.
Ken F. Tracey, president and owner of the Manufacturing Source Inc., and avid bird-watcher.
"There's a lot of talent on that list," Commissioner Ted Schrader said.
In other news
FIREWORKS FLAREUP: Commissioners Steve Simon and Pat Mulieri raised concerns about the glut of fireworks launched in the weeks before and after July 4. Simon said he fielded more than 30 complaints from residents about the fire hazards and noise from neighbors' fireworks.
"This year was the worst in my memory," said Simon, noting the roof of his daughter's car was singed by a falling firework.
He called for some type of restrictions on the use of fireworks in residential areas.
"I do not think anybody has the right to blow things up over another person's property after having a six-pack of libation," Simon said.
Although they discussed the problem, commissioners did not reach a consensus on how to address it. Under state law, anyone buying fireworks must sign an affidavit swearing the explosives are for agricultural use, such as shooing birds from a fish hatchery, but commission Chairman Peter Altman acknowledged "nobody takes them (the affidavits) seriously."
ROAD REPAIRS: County officials have wrestled for years with the quandary over non-county maintained roads: The county does not have responsibility for maintaining them, yet the residents along them pay taxes and expect their roads to remain passable.
After discussing one-time emergency fixes on a couple of roads Tuesday, commissioners agreed to ask county staff to come up with a better plan for repairing non-county maintained roads.
Some of the ideas included splitting the cost with residents for the repairs, or setting aside a specific pot of gas tax dollars each year for non-county maintained roads.
Staffers will outline options at a future meeting.
- Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is email@example.com