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Annual drainage fee same for all parcels
By DAVID DECAMP
Published July 11, 2007
DADE CITY - You might own a 1,400-square-foot starter home near the coast. Or a 2,200-square-foot home in central Pasco County. Or a 4,100-square-foot spread nestled in the hills of northeast Pasco.
No matter. The County Commission wants to charge you a new $47 annual drainage fee - regardless of how big or small your property is.
"That hurts the people who live in a small home and it rewards people who live in a large house," said Commissioner Michael Cox, who nonetheless was part of the 5-0 vote Tuesday to move the preliminary proposal forward.
Originally, a consultant and county staffers proposed a three-part scale for the drainage fee, which would be used to address flooding problems and improve water quality.
Homes smaller than 2,000 square feet would have paid $28 a year. Midsize homes would pay $47. Homes larger than 4,000 square feet - about 20 percent of all Pasco residences - would pay $94 a year. The square footage includes driveways and other impermeable areas besides the home.
But Commissioner Ted Schrader won over the board after he said he wanted one fee to "keep it simple."
Hailing from mostly rural east Pasco, Schrader said larger properties in the country could pay an unfair amount. He also argued a small home on a hill could cause more drainage problems than a large home in a valley- or, for that matter, small homes elsewhere.
"If we were that precise, we would have to do a study on every single home," countered Scott McClelland, vice president of consultant Camp, Dresser & McKee.
The consultant's study, which recommended the three-scale approach, was based on the general effects different size homes cause on drainage.
The switch to a uniform fee happened during the opening of the fee approval process, which should be done by September.
But the timing Tuesday was important because the county has to submit the rates for annual tax notices to taxpayers this month.
With that deadline looming, the fees will not rise any higher for any homeowner, chief assistant county administrator Michele Baker said.
The new fee is supposed to pay for $360-million in drainage improvements in areas that have been deemed failing or near failing, according to a study. The change to the flat fee will not affect the revenue expected.
The commission voted 3-2 against giving free monthly water to about 50 homes with potentially fouled wells near the county's Hudson Wastewater Treatment Plant. Under a state order, the county has to offer free hookups to the county's central water system worth $2,000 to $3,000 to those residents because high levels of sodium and chloride turned up in tests near the plant. Commissioners Michael Cox and Jack Mariano pushed for free service for a year to mollify residents, but commissioners Ann Hildebrand, Pat Mulieri and Ted Schrader feared it would set a precedent.
County officials introduced a proposal for tougher standards for investigating potential sinkholes. The proposed requirements would mean developers and builders would have to test properties for potential sinkholes before building. If sinkholes are found, additional supports would be required. The proposed standards are in response to high insurance rates due to sinkhole claims.