City Council Seat 1 candidates share their views as election approaches on Tuesday
Zephyrhills City Council elections will be held Tuesday at the Alice Hall Community Center in front of Zephyr Park. There are two seats contested in the election. Seat 3 incumbent Kent Compton is challenged by political newcomer Rose Hale. And Seat 1 incumbent Lance Smith is challenged by former council member Manny Funes. Seat 5 incumbent Charlie Proctor is unopposed this year. The mayor position is unopposed and will be filled by the sole candidate, former city council member Danny Burgess. Questions taken from the 2013 Zephyrhills Citizen Satisfaction Survey were posed by The Pasco Tribune to the candidates in the contested races. The answers provided by Smith and Funes are being published today. Smith, 50, was born and raised in Zephyrhills. His family has been here since the early 1800s. He is married to Tammy Smith. They have three children. Funes, 68, was born in Honolulu and moved to Florida 48 years ago. He has lived in Zephyrhills for 30 years. He is married to Yvonne Funes. They have two children.
In your opinion what are the most important challenges facing Zephyrhills today? Smith: I see the following as priority issues for the city:
Filling current department head vacancies with quality managers and to improve employee morale; continuing to strengthen the local police and fire departments; working to improve and enhance our parks; creating partnerships with state and county governments and the school board; continuing economic development measures with the chamber of commerce; Main Street, and Pasco Economic Development Council, specifically measures to increase business retention and job creation; working on these specific transportation projects: County Road 54E and U.S. 301 improvement and continuing improvement on County Road 54 east to 20th Street; extending State Road 56 to U.S. 301; adding sidewalks and trails along our roadways; and working to interconnect existing trail segments to local parks.
Funes: Keep taxes low and still provide professional service to our residents and businesses. Most of all, be accountable for the way our taxes are spent.
Zephyrhills has a drug problem and much of the drug activity is in Zephyr Park. I would like to support our police department, knowing they don’t have the manpower, by being proactive and work on getting more lights in the park. It’s no secret that when it becomes dark, the crime activity in Zephyr Park increases. With more light in the park we can create a family-friendly environment where residents can go to after dark.
Work with the county and our politicians to widen County Road 54. This road is frustrating and dangerous to drive on, especially when the snowbirds are here.
Support the chamber and its economic committee in bringing businesses to come to Zephyrhills and create jobs.
Encourage the East Pasco Association of Realtors, of which I am a director, in supporting city’s staff in working with owners of vacant buildings that hurt the look and image of our city.
Each year it costs more for the city of Zephyrhills to provide the same level of services. Would you support a property tax increase to maintain current levels of service? Smith: Our current council and city employees have done a great job maintaining the level of services during shrinking property values due to the recession. I would first look to our city becoming more efficient in the delivery of services and maintaining the tax current millage rate before looking at increases in any taxes.
Funes: I am definitely in favor of keeping taxes low. Staff would have to provide evidence for a definite need before I would consider raising taxes. I am disappointed in the way this council agreed to spend $280,000 on top of a $750,000 grant the city got to renovate Fire Station 1. Several years ago, I coordinated the effort to have our own employees renovate this Downtown Fire Station for $130,000. The firemen appeared to be very happy with this renovation. This $280,000 could have gone to city employee raises or a needy project.
Would you be in support of the city acquiring and operating the former Pasco County-owned park, known as Hercules Park, including the public pool if it meant there could be ongoing additional expense to the city beyond the pool admission fees to operate it? Smith: Regarding the pool, I am totally supportive of the city assisting in getting the pool back operational. To be financially responsible, I would want to know how much the anticipated shortfall would be, and would also attempt to (and have already had preliminary discussions) partner with the YMCA to possibly operate the facility. I am very concerned with what is going to happen with the Hercules Park. I have been in talks with the school board regarding the Hercules Aquatic Park, and the reconfiguration to the Zephyrhills High School athletic fields that will take place when improvements are made to CR 54. I also made an unsuccessful pitch to my fellow council members not to trade away the adjacent city owned 10-acre parcel as I felt it would have been an ideal place for our northern park.
Funes: The Hercules Park is dear to my heart and I already have reached out to an administrator for the Pasco County School District, who owns this park. This official has advised me that they would like to sell the southeast corner of the park to help their budget shortfall, then arrange to lease the rest of the park to the city for a dollar a year. I would be in favor of asking the taxpayers of Zephyrhills to consider paying a small amount of their property taxes toward providing a very needed family friendly park at the Hercules location.