Residents Support Safety Agencies
By MONICA SCANDLEN [email protected]
Published: Sep 17, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY - Echoing concerns of their northern neighbors, New Port Richey residents pleaded with council members Tuesday night not to mess with the city's police and fire departments.
The comments came during a discussion of recommendations from the city's Charter-Ordinance Advisory Board, including a proposal to eliminate the referendum required to abolish the departments.

Board member Jim Schuh offered few specifics and the council decided to schedule a workshop on the recommendations for Oct. 28.

But that didn't quiet residents.

``It's my opinion that our public safety is under assault,'' Ed Lawlor said.

He said the average response time of New Port Richey police and firefighters is about half the response time of Pasco County's services.

State Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey, asked the council to retain the referendum requirement.

``Since 1921, we have had a fire department here - prior to the city becoming a city,'' she said.

Fiorentino's husband, Joe, is a New Port Richey fire captain. She said her opposition to the proposed charter change has ``nothing to do with my husband.''

Pasco municipalities grappling with budget shortfalls have targeted cuts to their police and fire services.

Port Richey council members recently voted to dissolve the dispatch department and contract with New Port Richey to dispatch police and fire calls.

Dade City commissioners last month voted to disband the city's fire department and make significant cuts to the police department.

Reporter Monica Scandlen can be reached at (727) 815-1084.