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Rate guarantee has potentially troublesome catch

A former county attorney says if Port Richey buys Lindrick Corp., a clause promising its current customers the same rate as city residents could only be enforced if the customers sued.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2000

The latest term sheet in the sales negotiation between Port Richey and Lindrick Service Corp. includes protection for the utility's customers from rates higher than city residents pay.

But that provision may have a snag.

Former Pasco County Attorney Ben Harrill, when contacted by the Times on Wednesday, said the provision of the term sheet that reads "Lindrick's customers are not to pay any more than similar municipal customers" could be enforced only if Lindrick customers were to sue Port Richey. He said the customers could claim to be a third party to the sales contract and demand that the terms be followed.

Port Richey has been given a Tuesday deadline by Lindrick owner Joe Borda to agree to terms. The Port Richey City Council meets Tuesday night and is expected to take up the issue. City officials said Wednesday that council members would meet for a workshop on the Lindrick sale, most likely on Friday.

The issue of unequal rates has been one of the central concerns of residents of the Lindrick area.

Another concern is that residents in the neighborhoods of Gulf Harbors and Shamrock Heights would not be able to vote in Port Richey.

City Manager Vince Lupo has said they are free to speak at city meetings and voice their opinions.

Pat Gorecki, chairwoman of the Waterfront Community Impact Council and of the Board of Gulf Harbors Civic Association, said even with the clause protecting Lindrick customers from higher rates, she's still suspicious.

"That's not clear cut enough for me to make any difference to me about what they are doing," she said. "I wouldn't be standing up and jumping for joy at that statement."

Little has changed since mid-February when the council was given the first term sheet. Most changes were Lindrick and Port Richey spelling out points in the original term sheet.

Lupo and City Attorney Paul Marino have said that the sheet has changed often in negotiations. Conspicuous by its absence is a clause Mayor Eileen Ferdinand has said would be inserted at her request, which would give the county the option to buy Lindrick within 60 days of an agreement between the city and the utility.

What is in the term sheet is a clause that says if any other government buys Lindrick from under Port Richey, or if another government prevents the sale, Lindrick would pay Port Richey for the costs of its consultants, so far $15,000.

-- Times staff writer Beth Glenn contributed to this report.

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