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End of Halls River sewer project near

As a backup, homeowners will be given a year after they connect to crush their septic tanks.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published March 6, 2007


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HOMOSASSA - The Halls River Road sewer project is nearly a year behind, but crews are scheduled to finish soon, County Commissioner Gary Bartell said Monday.

This week Citrus officials will meet with representatives from Danella Construction Corp. to discuss the project, which Bartell said is about 95 percent complete.

But many residents who initially supported building new sewer lines in environmentally sensitive west Citrus have become skeptical. They point to delays and construction problems in the project, which Bartell has publicly described as a "fiasco."

At a meeting last week, Robert Darr of Homosassa told commissioners he was concerned, citing problems with a sewer line near his home.

"We've had numerous repairs already to that line. ... We don't have confidence," he said.

In response, commissioners voted unanimously to allow homeowners who are part of the project - including residents of Darr's Twin River Estates neighborhood - to wait a year to crush their septic tanks.

That will give them a backup plan in case problems pop up with the new sewer system.

"I'm embarrassed to stand before you now to tell you that we still don't know when it's going to be done," Bartell said.

State law would require residents to crush septic tanks 90 days after connecting to a sewer system, but commissioners said they wanted to give residents affected by the Halls River Road project more time.

"These folks have endured some major, major inconveniences," Bartell said. "I think this request is the least that we can do to build their confidence."

Darr was the second person to come before commissioners criticizing the project in recent months. In January, Harold Seckinger, who lives on Taylor Terrace in Homosassa, said Danella's work "cannot be considered dependable, and failure is almost certain."

Last week's commission decision will affect about 400 homes in Homosassa, county spokeswoman Jessica Lambert said Monday. County staffers are working with officials from the Department of Environmental Health to hammer out the details, she said.

Bartell said Monday that despite the delays, he remained confident in the project.

"I think the system is going to work, and the system is going to work just fine," he said. But giving homeowners the option of keeping their septic tanks will encourage them to hook up to the sewer system sooner.

And he noted that in light of problems with the project, Citrus has changed its approach to similar projects - adding more specifications to contracts.

"It's just unfortunate that the contractor ran into so many problems, and created a lot of the problems for himself," he said.

Commissioners sharply criticized Danella at a meeting in July for its handling of the project, saying crews from the company had inconvenienced residents and disrupted some local roads.

The company is also installing new water and wastewater lines nearby in Chassahowitzka.

That project is ahead of schedule, Bartell said.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.

Fast Facts:

 

Halls River Road sewer project

- The project, which will provide sewer service to about 400 homes in the Halls River Road area, is in Commissioner Gary Bartell's district.

- Plans called for completion in April 2006.

- Since then the county has charged contractor Danella Construction Corp. $1,000 per day for construction delays.

- The project is 95 percent finished.

[Last modified March 5, 2007, 23:11:16]


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