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C.T. Bowen, Pasco Times Columnist

C.T. Bowen

C.T. Bowen has been reporting and writing about the people and politics of Pasco County since moving to Florida in 1987. A native of upstate New York, he lives in Land O' Lakes with his wife, Mary Beth, a public school teacher. They have two sons.

Phone: (727) 869-6239

Email: bowen@tampabay.com

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  1. Safety improvements coming to deadly U.S. 19 intersection

    Roads

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Over a six-year period, 14 people, including five pedestrians, were killed in traffic crashes near the U.S. 19 intersection with Beacon Woods Drive in Hudson.

    The intersection serves as the western access point to the sprawling Beacon Woods community, but also doubles as a one-way exit from the 35-acre Walmart Supercenter site at the northeast corner. Traffic in the area has been problematic since the store opened nine years ago. Beacon Woods shoppers are forced to drive out to U.S. 19 to return to their neighborhood from the store, and Leisure Beach and Country Club Estates residents must confront heavy traffic while trying to pull out of their own neighborhoods on the north side of Walmart....

    The proposed fixes to the traffic woes at U.S. 19, Beacon Woods Drive, Beach Boulevard and Dipaola Drive in Hudson include a roundabout,  access roads within the Walmart parcel and a future traffic signal.
Josh Solomon | Times
  2. Pasco targets repeat offenders with new code enforcement tactic

    Local Government

    HOLIDAY — The out-of-date and overpriced gasoline cost on the sign outside — $2.69 for a gallon of regular — is the first indication that business isn't booming.

    Inside, some of the shelves are still stocked. But outside, a tray of five dirty plastic milk bottles sits on a window sill. There is an ashtray on the ground in front of the door that is more board than glass. A for-sale sign near the road greets passersby, as do piles of abandoned living room furniture scattered along the west side of the property. Nine sofas and recliners, two television sets, assorted cushions and a mattress have turned the shuttered store from Pure Gas to pure garbage....

    Basil A. Almamluk is the owner of the closed Pure Gas station in Holiday, which has emerged as a poster child for a new "high return'' county code enforcement effort. The property on Mile Stretch Drive is littered with discarded furniture and other trash. [Photo courtesy of Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Pasco tax roll shows increase, but so, too, are budget requests

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.

    Figures released Tuesday by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner showed Pasco County's preliminary property tax roll at $24.24 billion, a $1.3 billion increase, with a little more than half of the growth, $693.5 million, attributed to new construction....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
New construction accounted for $693.5 million in taxable property values being added to the Pasco County tax rolls in 2016, according to preliminary estimates released by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner. Overall, the property tax roll grew more than 5 percent, according to the preliminary numbers.

  4. Bowen: Pasco administrator sets out to do the impossible — for fun

    Local Government

    Dan Biles draws inspiration from Walt Disney.

    ''It's kind of fun to do the impossible.''

    The quotation is on a placard sitting on a shelf in Biles' office. It was a gift from colleagues during his time as public works director in Corpus Christi, Texas.

    "I love that quote,'' Biles said, "and it is fun to do something that nobody thinks you can do.''

    Disney isn't his only motivation. Biles' Twitter account shows frequent posts about leadership and performance....

    Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles, right, speaks with his predecessor Michele Baker during a May 2 budget workshop.
  5. New central Pasco bus service to debut next week

    Mass Transit

    LAND O'LAKES — Christie Zimmer likes to ride the bus for fun.

    Getting from her home in Lake Padgett Estates to the bus stop at Collier Parkway and State Road 54 can be the hardest part. But from there, it's smooth riding — on what Pasco County calls its cross county route between Trinity and Zephyrhills — to the Shops at Wiregrass or the 16-screen movie theater at the Groves in Wesley Chapel. ...

    Pasco County will begin a new bus route serving Land O’Lakes on Monday, May 22. Rides are free until May 27.
  6. Pasco County seeks to expedite U.S. 41/SR 54 intersection plan

    Roads

    DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners want to expedite improvements planned for the traffic-choked intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in central Pasco.

    Last week, commissioners, sitting with elected municipal officials as the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization, formally asked the state Department of Transportation to transfer a little more than $1 million from a right of way acquisition account to a construction fund for the state's 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2018....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
Members of the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization weren’t happy that construction money for planned improvements to the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in Lutz and Lando O’Lakes won’t be available until the 2019 state budget.

  7. Owner of proposed Pasco mine uninterested in preservation pitch

    Environment

    Neighbors are interested, but the owner isn't. So Pasco County will not be preserving the site of a proposed mine as ecologically sensitive land.

    The owner's response came last week during a meeting between Lew Friedland of Seven Diamonds LLC and Keith Wiley, Pasco County's natural resources manager. Nearby resident Bob Howell had nominated the 143 acres, targeted by Seven Diamonds as a lime-rock mine, to become a candidate for preservation under the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program....

    Neighbors of a proposed mine near the Lago Verde mine shown here had hoped the county could preserve the property as ecologically sensitive.
  8. Bowen: Baker no longer pitching Pasco; now she'll watch from the stands

    Local Government

    If you're watching the Tampa Bay Rays on TV next season and spot a couple in the stands wearing Rays gear, even though the game is in Arlington, Texas, Seattle or some other far-flung location, take a close look at the fans.

    You could be getting a glimpse of retiring Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker and her husband, Bill.

    Out are the worries about drainage, budgets and public safety. Now the concerns focus on driving, baseball and national parks....

    Outgoing Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker concludes her 24-year career in Pasco government today. Here, she listens to budget presentations during a May 2 workshop.
  9. Pasco's haul is substantial in state budget

    Legislature

    Florida will earmark $15 million toward a new interchange at Interstate 75 and Overpass Road in Pasco County under the proposed state budget plan.

    That funding highlights the Pasco-specific appropriations in the $82.4 billion budget plan agreed to by legislative leaders and approved Monday by the House and Senate. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who could veto all or portions of it.

    "I can't see why anyone would not want to see this go through," said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. ''The interchange is a regional project. It's definitely an economic driver, and it will alleviate traffic backups and congestion for our residents."...

    The state budget to be voted on Monday by the Legislature includes $962,000 to two stromwater projects in Pasco County. The county had requested more than $19 million for 10 seperate projects. Times Files (2016)
  10. Pasco County Commission to consider full school impact fee increase, not half measure

    Blog

    After a nearly two-hour work session Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners agreed to proceed with the School Board's full request to nearly double the amount charged on new home construction, with the revenue going to new schools made necessary by the growth.

    The commission killed the idea from their school impact fee advisory committee of tying the fee amount to a future sales tax referendum....

    The Pasco County Commission killed a proposal by its school impact fee advisory committee (shown), and is progressing with the school district plan instead.
  11. Pasco commission refuses to link impact fee increase to tax referendum

    Education

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A proposal from home builders that would tie greater school impact fees in Pasco County to a voter referendum on a higher sales tax has some significant detractors — county commissioners and the home-building industry itself.

    In a May 1 letter to the County Commission, the president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association said the trade group supported increasing the education impact fee by $2,300 per newly constructed single-family home, an increase of 47 percent....

    The Tampa Bay Builders Association supported increasing the school impact fee on new single-family homes by a flat $2,300 or 47 percent. But the county opted to pursue a tiered approach.
  12. Budget wish list in Pasco topped by public safety

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners want to put more ambulances on the road, keep libraries open longer and perhaps take less money out of your pocket if you go to a county park.

    What they haven't figured out is how to pay for it all, particularly against the backdrop of rising law enforcement costs and the prospect of a $12.5 million cut in property tax revenue in 2019.

    "We have to be very thoughtful in the process with anything that's reoccurring,'' County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said after commissioners spent Tuesday morning listening to budget pitches from their own staff....

    Among the spending proposals to be considered by Pasco commissioners is a plan to add ambulance service in northeast Pasco and along the U.S. 19 corridor in west Pasco.
  13. Residents say Summertree water quality worse than ever

    Water

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A $1 million state grant and a connection to Pasco County Utilities was supposed to curb the tap water troubles for the Summertree neighborhood.

    It hasn't.

    "Our water quality has actually gotten worse and now threatens our health and safety," Ann Marie Ryan said in an April 21 letter to state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Wilton Simpson.

    Ryan is the leader of the Summertree Water Alliance, which has worked for years to improve the quality of water for 1,200 customers in the neighborhood south of State Road 52 in west Pasco. The residents, clad in red T-shirts, had become frequent visitors to the Pasco Commission chambers, complaining about expensive, dark-colored, sulfur-odored water they said was unfit for drinking, bathing or cooking....

  14. Army Corps okays Pasco's Ridge Road route, but more studies required

    Environment

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Federal environmental regulators have given initial approval to the planned route for the Ridge Road Extension, a proposed 8-mile, four-lane highway linking west Pasco to U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes.

    The Army Corps of Engineers notified Pasco officials last week that the county's preferred route, a nearly $102 million highway elevated through portions of the Serenova Preserve, is considered the "least environmentally damaging practical alternative.''...

  15. Energy company plans solar farm in northeast Pasco

    Energy

    DADE CITY — An alternative energy company is proposing to build and operate a 90-acre, 15-megawatt solar panel farm in rural Pasco County.

    ESA Renewables, headquartered in Castellón, Spain, is targeting property — purchased in 2016 by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and his wife, Kathy — for a solar photovoltaic production facility.

    The land, with a Ramsey Road address but abutting Blanton Road, previously had been owned by a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. It had been the proposed site of a controversial housing development called College Hill because of its close proximity to the Pasco-Hernando State College campus outside Dade City. That proposal never came to fruition after running into stiff opposition from local residents advocating for rural protections for the undeveloped northeast portion of the county....

    ESA Renewables is proposing a 90-acre, 15-megawatt solar panel farm in rural northeast Pasco County.