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Fasano: Moffitt is not coming

By DAVID DeCAMP
Published December 7, 2006


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The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa has ruled out Pasco County to be the home for a major expansion, state Sen. Mike Fasano said Wednesday.

Oddly, though, Moffitt chief financial officer Jack Kolosky said no decision has been made.

"I'd say nothing is ruled out," Kolosky said. "That's all I can say - we haven't announced anything."

Moffitt, a nationally renowned institution, is examining how to add a site in Pasco or Hillsborough county that could provide cancer research, outpatient services and offices. Various incentive packages are part of the discussions.

Landing it would be a major victory for Pasco officials seeking to improve the job base of a largely suburban bedroom community. Dozens to hundreds of jobs, many of them high paying, would come with such a facility.

Moffitt has looked at southeast Pasco's Wiregrass Ranch area controlled by the Porter family, where new stores and 16,000 homes are planned. The area is bounded by State Road 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Don Porter and his attorney, Joel Tew, did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said County Administrator John Gallagher and County Attorney Robert Sumner briefly informed him in separate conversations this week that Moffitt had ruled out Pasco. The reason was Moffitt's asking price for incentives was too high, Fasano said.

"Gallagher indicated Moffitt was asking for a lot of incentives," said Fasano, who declined to say the exact figure but noted midsized Pasco does not have the revenue to match larger counties' offers.

Early discussions with Pasco involved up to $15-million in county incentives, such as impact fee credits. State incentives also are expected to be requested, and state officials have code-named Moffitt's proposal as Project Bold. Pasco officials also have spoken with lawmakers, including Fasano, to prepare for any special legislative actions necessary for the deal.

Through an aide, Sumner declined comment. Gallagher did not return a message seeking comment.

Asked about Pasco losing out, County Commissioner Michael Cox demurred on details but said, "That's probably the case. But they haven't made any announcement yet."

Moffitt also is considering sites in Hillsborough County, including land near its home base at the University of South Florida. The research center had studied land along the U.S. 301 corridor, too.

"I'd say Hillsborough has really indicated a strong interest in working with us," Kolosky said.

The search is linked to an $80-million "Total Cancer Care" endeavor by Moffitt to combine research and treatment. But Moffitt lacks enough room to grow at the USF campus, although it wants the new location to be nearby.

Kolosky said he would like a decision to be made before Christmas, but it probably will not be. Decisions by local and state officials, and Moffitt's board, have to happen first.

"Every time I think something is going in a certain direction, it changes," Kolosky said.

David DeCamp can be reached at 727 869-6232 or ddecamp@sptimes.com.

[Last modified December 6, 2006, 22:45:51]


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