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Lawmakers Request Dissolution Of City Of Port Richey

Port Richey City Hall

After a pair of mayoral scandals, two state officials are seeking legislation to dissolve the city of Port Richey.

Representative Amber Mariano, R-District 36, and State Senator Ed Hooper, R-District 16, announced Monday that because of recent controversies and mounting debt, they want to start talks about the dissolution of the city. Their solution would see the area governed by Pasco County.

“In a city that has dealt with scandal after scandal, I believe the residents of Port Richey deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent efficiently, legally and in their best interest,” Mariano said in a press release she posted on Facebook. “At the end of the day, this will save the residents significant amounts on their tax bills, it is our duty to protect their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Rep. Amber Mariano, R-District 36

The city of Port Richey has faced two major scandals in the recent year. In February, former Mayor Dale Massad was charged with attempted murder for firing shots at a SWAT team that was attempting to arrest him for practicing medicine without a license.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order  suspending Massad, Terance Rowe was named acting mayor.

About a month later, Rowe was arrested on obstruction charges, which FDLE officials later confirmed was in connection with Massad’s case.

The current mayor is Scott Tremblay.

Tremblay told FOX 13, "It's surprising. At this point, the city is moving in the correct direction. We're well-funded. Financially, the city is healthy, so it doesn't make sense to dissolve the city."

According to Mariano, if the bill was to move forward, it would make sure that “all outstanding debt is addressed by Pasco County and that equitable arrangements are made to the current employees of the City of Port Richey.”

Mariano's statement also estimates that homeowners with a homestead exemption would see a 43 percent decrease in property tax if the city is dissolved.

“In my research, I have concluded that the residents of Port Richey will wind up with better service at a much lower price on their property tax bill,” said Sen. Hooper. “And [residents of Port Richey] will be removed from the legal finaglings that have occurred under their previous elected body and administration.”

Sen. Ed Hooper, R- District 16
Sen. Ed Hooper, R- District 16 FLORIDA SENATE

Hooper says there will be legislation drafted if the Pasco County Legislative Delegation approves the idea at next week’s meeting, Oct. 11 at 8 a.m. at Pasco-Hernando State College’s New Port Richey campus.

But Mayor Tremblay argues it should be up to Port Richey residents.

"If the people in Port Richey want to be dissolved and they want to go to the county, it should be put to a vote," Tremblay told FOX 13. "It shouldn't be the legislature coming in here and just taking over."

Still, Hooper acknowledges that it is hard to ignore recent events.

“These last 12 months have been an embarrassment. If I were a resident of Port Richey, with the newsworthiness that has come out of that city…I just don’t want them to go through that anymore,” said Hooper.

Adam Bakst is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2019.
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