Dispute delays sewer service
By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
LARGO -- The Army Reserve will have to wait at least two more weeks for sewer service at its new aviation training center after a dispute between local governments seeped into federal territory.
The city of Largo delayed extending service Tuesday night because the $9.8-million training facility at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport wants to use Largo's sewer lines but not be in the city.
Commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of holding off the vote. Jean Halvorsen objected. The rest want to wait until Oct. 15, allowing them time to consult City Manager Steven Stanton on what their obligation is to an agreement with Pinellas County that remains in dispute.
The training center -- which will house eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 35 soldiers and 20 maintenance workers -- is on county property, and the engineers requesting the service declined to enter into an annexation agreement.
Commissioners also chose to hold off on two other properties for the same reason.
"I personally don't like having this sword of Damocles over my head," said Commissioner Marty Shelby, who was praised by colleagues for leading the effort to delay the requests. He later expressed concern over how some might interpret their actions.
"I understand squabbling. But if the Army is ready to go, I don't want it to be said that Largo is standing in the way of national defense over an interlocal agreement issue," he said.
Stanton was at a conference this week in Philadelphia, but he has been among those Largo officials involved in dispute resolution meetings with Pinellas County and Pinellas Park.
The three local governments entered an agreement years ago that said the city would offer sewer service to unincorporated residents, and Pinellas Park and the county agreed to notify Largo of development in the city's sewer district, prior to issuing building permits.
But when Largo officials said the county and Pinellas Park violated the agreement last year by not notifying them of permits in a timely manner, Largo filed suit and the parties entered dispute resolution.
Now commissioners are unsure of their obligation to the agreement. Many want to require all property be annexed in order to get sewer service.
Capt. Jim Fitzgerald, commander of the Army Reserve's A Company, 158th Aviation Regiment, said the delay would not affect national security. He said the reserve unit is training in a temporary facility, and two weeks won't greatly affect the timeline.
"It's actually nothing more than an inconvenience," Fitzgerald said. "There are timelines built in for permitting. It has been a little slower than usual, but our timeline can accept a two-week delay."
-- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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