PORT RICHEY, Fla. - Two Florida legislators released a plan Monday that would dissolve the city of Port Richey, putting Pasco County in charge of governing its residents.
In the proposal Rep. Amber Mariani, R-Pasco County, and Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Pasco County, wrote of their "intent to seek legislation in the Florida Legislature that would dissolve the City of Port Richey and revoke its charter in the wake of recent controversies and debt creation by the city's local leaders."
"Back in March we really started the discussion when we saw the scandals that happened with the elected officials there," Mariano said.
Prior to that, then-mayor Dale Massad was accused of running an illegal medical practice and firing a gun at SWAT officers who showed up to raid his home.
A month later, interim mayor Terrance Rowe was also arrested and accused of plotting with Massad to tamper with a key witness in the case. The city council then struggled to fill the position.
"I think it's just time to save the residents the headache and help the area just continue to improve in a way that it's looking like it has the potential to," said Mariano, adding she believes taxpayers would save money if they were governed by the county. "This is the first step in the process, by no means is this a done deal. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing and at the end of the day, it's about saving them money."
Mayor Scott Tremblay, who was elected following the turmoil earlier in the year, said he was blindsided by the announcement.
"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," Tremblay told FOX 13. "It should be put to a vote. 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. It shouldn't be the legislature coming in here and just taking over."
The mayor said dissolving Port Richey would cost 60 city employees their jobs, including police and firefighters.
"The police right now have a one- or two-minute response time anywhere in the city. The same with the fire department. Where, the county, it's probably five, ten minutes or more," Tremblay said.
Mariano said the bill would be officially filed in Tallahassee at the end of October. Residents will have their chance to voice their opinions during a delegation meeting on October 11.