In advance of the April 10 New Port Richey City Council election, Patch talked with the candidates about their views on issues facing the city.
There are two city council seats open and three candidates. The two top vote-getters will each win a seat.
Bill Phillips' Biography in a Nutshell
- Phillips, 55, grew up in New Port Richey, went to Gulf High, went to school out of state, and then moved back to New Port Richey in the 1990s. He eventually moved into Trinity and then back into his house in New Port Richey, which is in the footprint of the home he grew up in.
- Phillips served on the city council from 1992 to 1994. He ran for election to the state House of Representatives in 1994, but did not win the seat.
- Phillips currently works as national account manager for a national roofing company.
- Phillips was a leader of the committee that created the Penny for Pasco program.
- He is married and has two sons.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for city council?
A: “I think I bring the experience of being on council, plus being involved in the community for a number of years,” Phillips said.
He said his background in business and serving on committees and boards gives him experience needed to tackle the problems faced by the city.
Q: What makes you a good steward of taxpayers' money?
A: “I understand where it’s raised from,” he said. “I understand looking at the key needs of the city, and obviously trying to utilize that money for the most services possible.“
Q: What are the three major problems facing the city?
A: “No. 1 is how they are handling the real estate that they own,” Phillips said. He said No. 2, is the lack of revenue coming in to operate the city. The third is a need to focus to focus on “the entire city as a whole,” paying attention to neighborhoods and the downtown and business zones.
“We spend a lot of time in those business corridors, but we really need to focus in on those different neighborhoods,” he said.
He also said there’s need for more interaction between the city and schools.
Q: Redevelopment is a major issue in the city. What would you do to spur it along?
A: Phillips said it’s nice to see that the city has brought on an economic development manager.
Businesses brought into the city are a “shot in the arm” not only to economic revenue but the city’s vitality, Phillips said.
Q: What direction should the city be taking with the Hacienda Hotel? (The city is currently looking at whether there is possibility of expanding the shuttered building east into the Gloria Swanson parking lot)
A: Phillips said that it will be interesting to see what the potential developer of the building wants to do. He said it "will take some real "due diligence" to figure out how to make an expansion into the Gloria Swanson parking lot fit into downtown.
He said he is getting “re-engaged” with what the city is doing and the direction of the project and that after a tour of the building, he would be much more able to talk about it and ideas for use. Phillips said that whenever city officials talk about building a project in the city project, they always talk about a baseline, but additional items are needed to make a project feasible.
“I really think that the city should get out of the co-ownership position,” he said.
Q: What would you like to see in the First Baptist Church site?
A: Phillips said the use city officials have identified for the property, as a site for condos, is “pretty good.”
Ultimately, the city needs to let a developer "come in with the use and work in conjunction with the city development department to make sure that it's aesthetically appealing and that it functions well in that downtown area. It meets the zoning criteria, so you really just need to help it to be a viable project."
Q: What would you like to see in the former Community Hospital site?
A: "I would‘ve have loved to have seen another hospital come in." Phillips said. "I have some hospital groups that I call on that I would love to bounce that location off of and see what they feel like. Obviously, if you can find a college that can go in there and use it as a training facility for nursing or whatever, it’s got that built-in components.”
He said he would love to work at a VA component if that becomes a possibility.
It was a “real business core“ for a number of years, he said.
He said he would like to sit down with the site's owners and get their thoughts.
Q: Do you think the city has a crime problem?
A: “I don’t see it at the moment,” Philips said. “I think our police department does an excellent job.”
Q: A revenue shortfall has been projected going into next year’s budget. What would the city do to balance revenue and costs? Raise taxes? Cut services?
A: The city needs to look "across the board" at the boudget and see what the impact of the Legislature will be. Penny for Pasco, which is up for renewal in 2014, also plays into that.
Q: What should be done to generate revenue for the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center?
A: Having a marketing director would benefit the center, but it should things like put pamphlets in water bills and institute neighborhood days and possible specials.