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City Considers Selling Property to Ease Financial Burdens

The New Port Richey City Council is starting to explore the possibilities.

New Port Richey’s elected officials are taking a tour of the city Saturday that will highlight key real estate properties, including those city officials may wish to eventually unload.

The tour is a public meeting and is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon June 16. The Hacienda Hotel and other properties the city owns will be among the real estate the officials intend to pass as they ride by on either a trolley or bus. An itinerary of all properties on the tour was not available Wednesday.

The tour follows on the heels of the council's discussion about possibly selling some of the surplus property the city owns.

"The timing is very good," said City Manager John Schneiger.

The tour begins and ends at the city's public works building, 6132 Pine Hill Road, Port Richey. Once the tour is over, council members will get a refresher on the state's public records laws and strategic plan for 2012.

"It's a good opportunity for a new council to get a fresh start," Schneiger said. 

Everybody who follows city issues already knows the city redevelopment fund bought a few high-profile properties, including the Hacienda Hotel on Main Street and the First Baptist Church on Orange Lake, in the middle of last decade.

Those properties have remained in the city’s hands as attempts to develop or unload them have failed, and the financial burden of buying those properties continues to haunt the city.

The city’s financial projections have gotten ever worse. When an independent auditor submitted his initial report on city finances in April, it was projected the city general fund deficit could amount to $12 million over the next 5 years if the city doesn’t fix some things.

After further number crunching that revealed declining revenue, that number is rising to an estimated $15 million, said Schneiger.

This week, the council started considering the possibility of selling some of its surplus properties to ease its financial burden. 

One of the properties council members put a pin in for future discussion was the Claude Pepper Senior Center, 6640 Van Buren Street. The city owns the building and leases it to CARES (Community Agìng and Retirement Services.) The city recently agreed to spend $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to weatherize the building.  

CARES renders health care services to seniors but not just those in New Port Richey.

“You have a city with our funding constraints supporting a service that’s really quite regional,” Schneiger said.

City Council members said they would like to have Bill Aycrigg, president and Chief Executive Officer of CARES, talk to them about the building. In the meantime, the city needs to do research for restrictions on how the building can be used.

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