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NPR reviewing chamber building ownership question

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Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2014 at 02:10 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials want to confirm exactly who owns the landmark West Pasco Chamber of Commerce building to avoid having two insurance policies on the same property.

The chamber built it, so its president, Chip Wichmanowski, believes the business group owns it. The building at Main Street and River Road has been home to the chamber since 1971.

New Port Richey City Council members weren’t so certain. Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas thought the city owns the building because the chamber pays a lease.

Councilman Jeff Starkey, who operates an insurance agency in New Port Richey, said the city should double check ownership. Starkey wondered if both the city and chamber are paying insurance for the same site. The owner usually handles the insurance policy.

The topic came up during lease renewal talks at a recent meeting. Wichmanowski said he would prefer at least a three-year lease. The chamber pays about $250 a month for its headquarters.

In the past, the city has granted long-term lease agreements for five-year and 25-year terms, but a three-year pact would suit him just fine, Wichmanowski said.

Whoever owns the site, the chamber has invested a lot of money in the past year or so fixing and upgrading the building, Councilman Bill Phillips noted.

Phillips suggested amending the lease agreement for three years and three months so it will coincide with the chamber’s 2015 fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

City attorneys hope to sort out the insurance and ownership issues in time for the final reading of the lease, scheduled for the March 18 City Council meeting.

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