DADE CITY — It’s back to the drawing board after the County Commission voted unanimously to drop Port Richey as a subaward recipient of money the county received through the federal RESTORE Act.
The county voted today to terminate Port Richey as a subrecipient after the U.S. Treasury Department informed the county that a change in the scope of Port Richey’s dredging plan created an unacceptable “material modification of a multiyear plan.”
The city is planning to use the money it would receive as a RESTORE grant to dredge only Channel 1 and forgo the planned construction of a new boat ramp at Port Richey Waterfront Park. The city had been considering dredging other channels but opted for the down-sized plan.
City Manager Vincent Lupo and other city officials were aware that terminating the city as a RESTORE subaward recipient was on today’s County Commission agenda but did not attend the commission meeting.
In order to keep the RESTORE money, the county, in conjunction with the city, must “submit a new project for consideration or a multi-year implementation plan amendment showing the reduced scope,” the county’s RESTORE Act administrator, Curtis Franklin, told commissioner.
As part of the process, the county must give the city 30 days’ notice of its decision to terminate it as a subaward recipient, Franklin said.
At the urging of Commissioner Mike Moore, the County Commission voted to terminate the city as a subaward recipient but hold onto the $1 million in RESTORE funds it has received from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which is under the control of the Treasury Department. The fund was created to disburse money from the legal settlement related to the 2010 BP-Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout and oil spill.
That $1 million total includes $667,000 for the city to pay for the dredging.
Dredging Channel 1 is important enough that pulling the $667,000 earmarked and putting the city’s allocation “back on the rack” would jeopardize having the project competed in a timely manner.
Since the county was the recipient of the RESTORE funds, it can decide to hold onto the $1 million and determine what to do with it, County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder told commissioners.
Commissioner Jack Mariano, who has been a critic of the city’s decision to reduce the scope of its dredging plan, went along with Moore’s motion to drop Port Richey as a subrecipient but keep the RESTORE money. He warned five years ago that reducing the scope of the dredging project would put the RESTORE Act funds in jeopardy.
Mariano, however, said county and city officials must now begin discussing ways to resurrect a city dredging plan that is larger in scope as a prelude to seeking Treasury Department approval of reinstating the city as a subaward recipient. Those discussions must include finding other funding sources, since the money now allocated would not cover the full cost of the larger dredging plan, Mariano said.
Once a new plan can be worked out, it would have to go through the RESTORE grant process, including winning approval of the local RESTORE Board and the Department of Treasury. The County Commission could then consider allocating the RESTORE Act funds to the city.