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Tarpon Springs voters to decide on whether city should pay $5.25M for dredge site

Posted on June 26, 2024

TARPON SPRINGS — City commissioners voiced concerns about the $5.25 million asking price, but they voted unanimously to let residents decide whether to purchase a 14.28-acre river dredge spoil site.

The vacant property, used by the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge sediment from the Anclote River, is on the east side of L&R Industrial Boulevard, north of Brady Road and south of Anclote Boulevard. It is owned by Anclote Properties.

“We’re scrambling a little to put this together,” City Manager Mark LeCouris told commissioners. “Essentially we have a timeline issue. As you know, we need to do the ballot language for the referendum, and we need to do it in the two readings of July. The first week of August is when we have to have it to the elections office.”

The referendum would be on the November ballot.

LeCouris said that during negotiations the asking price was reduced by Anclote Properties from $5.5 million to $5.25 million.

“I do feel the city needs its own site,” Commissioner Frank DiDonato said. “I wonder about the price; I think it’s a little on the high side. I love the location; I think the location works out well for the city.”

He asked the city manager if the city ever considered the former Stauffer Chemical site. LeCouris said that property “is tied up and is not available to even make an approach on it.”

Commissioner Panagiotis Koulias said he had mixed feelings. “I understand it’s a lot of money. When it ties into our responsibilities as a commission it’s under our charter and responsibility … to improve and maintain the navigation of the Anclote River and city bayous. We’re in a spot where a decision made today will have an impact in the future for our community. I believe we just have to let the residents decide.”

Commissioner Michael Eisner said he “might have to vote on it holding my nose” because of the price.

Mayor Costa Vatikiotis noted it will be residents that decide whether to buy the property. “The river channel and the waterfront is key to the city’s future, and I’m not willing to gamble with that,” he said. “I support letting residents decide. The price doesn’t scare me, it’s the future of the city that scares me.”

Commissioner John Koulianos listed a dozen unfunded projects the city is facing, from bridges to seawalls to flood abatement. “I really don’t want to see this handcuff the future boards that are coming in behind us that are going to have to cover that debt service,” he said.

He suggested the projects be bundled and financed in a 30-year bond.

“I can’t vote yes on this very short truncated funding of this long-term need,” he said. “We have too many things that have a higher priority.”

Koulianos suggested a compromise that would have the city funding the debt service on the purchase over 10 years, rather than five, effectively reducing the city’s payment to $625,000 a year rather than $1.2 million.

LeCouris said residents can approve the purchase in November and then the city can then ask voters to approve a long-term bond financing package at the March election, which would provide funding for other projects, and allow the city to pay the debt service on the property over ten rather than five years.




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