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    Phone may bring call to conserve

    Clearwater is dialing more than 70,000 to warn of watering restrictions and plead for conservation.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001

    CLEARWATER -- In an unusual step, the city is making telephone calls to more than 70,000 Clearwater households to remind residents to conserve water and comply with one-day a week lawn watering restrictions.

    The calls, which are being made by the Clearwater Police Department's "auto-dialing" machine, began Thursday. They will continue through April 20, said Frank Klim, the city's assistant public communications director.

    The phone message says Tampa Bay is in severe drought conditions, but residents can help conserve the 35 percent of water that is used for irrigation. It warns that the city has increased enforcement of watering restrictions and advises residents to call 562-4987 for more information.

    Normally, the use of the police phone machine is limited to notifying residents in an area about a hazard or repair work that could cause an interruption in water service.

    It's also available for emergency situations, which the City Commission declared existed with the area's drought last week, before increasing fines to $100 for first-time offenders who break local lawn watering rules.

    Klim said the severity of the drought made it an emergency situation and necessitated encouraging people to conserve.

    Klim, a former television news anchor, recorded the message. Calls will be made only between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., Klim said.

    On other fronts, the city is flashing water conservation messages on electronic message boards along major roads such as Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. Information on watering restrictions will be stuffed into May utility bills.

    The city is also broadcasting a television spot with Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, resting in an armchair, speaking about the water crunch over easy-listening music. The announcement is being shown on C-VIEW, the city's cable station.

    So far, the public reaction to the campaign has been positive, even to the home telephone calls.

    "We've had a few nice messages, saying what a wonderful idea," Klim said. "And we've had one e-mail saying, "What exactly did the message say?' "

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