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County Commission hopefuls toss around ideas for future

At a debate, the five candidates for the District 5 seat discuss proposals ranging from desalination to technical education.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Every one of them would fight against putting a seawater desalination plant in Pasco County. Most want to extend to low-income seniors an additional homestead exemption.

But only one, Democratic incumbent County Commissioner David H. "Hap" Clark, would entertain a referendum to adopt a Penny for Pasco additional sales tax.

The five candidates for the District 5 County Commission seat lined up Thursday for a debate sponsored by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce. The event was moderated by Pasco Times editor of editorials C.T. Bowen and Tom Jackson, the Pasco County columnist for the Tampa Tribune.

Candidates Jack Armstrong, Clark, William C. Faulkner Jr., Fred Miller and Ed Poulin were asked a host of questions on topics that ranged from growth management to campaign finance reform to whether the county should beef up its economic development efforts.

All, to some degree, agreed that the Hudson Channel should be dredged and that the county should find a way to pay for it if the planned $1.1-million in state funding falls through. Only Miller urged a word of caution, saying, "There are some inherent problems with what you do with the spoil."

The four challengers stressed the need to contain growth, with suggestions that ranged from adopting minimum lot sizes for the entire county to increasing impact fees.

But Clark warned that there are consequences to unjustifiable restrictions on land use.

"We can sit up here and say whatever we want to, but people do have property rights," Clark said.

On the topic of economic development, Faulkner said he'd like to see more technical-education opportunities for Pasco's students. Miller opposed the county's efforts to attract any kind of industry to the county, saying more employees would simply clog already congested roads.

Most candidates said they thought there was ample waste in the county budget that could be trimmed to pay for some of the programs they supported.

Only Clark disagreed, saying the county was frugal with taxpayer dollars.

"Try asking (Budget Director) Mike Nurrenbrock for money," he said.

- Alisa Ulferts covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is ulferts@sptimes.com.

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