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County won't ask for watering waiver after all

After considering the sprinkling rules further, officials decide to follow Swiftmud's lead.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County has wavered on its sprinkling waiver request.

"We will follow the restrictions the best we can," Utilities Director Kay Adams said Thursday about new state rules limiting lawn watering to once a week. "To try to put the county on a variance is . . . a very difficult concept."

One day earlier, County Administrator Paul McIntosh said he planned to ask the Southwest Florida Water Management District for permission for Hernando to opt out of the stricter regulations. Enforcement posed a problem, McIntosh said, and the county should be able to manage with twice-a-week watering.

Potential loss of water pressure because of overuse on a single day also prompted McIntosh's concerns.

After consideration, the county changed its position even though Adams said she still worried about pressure problems. Her department will reconsider its variance request after the rule takes effect Monday.

The quick turnabout did not result from pressure by Swiftmud or county commissioners.

"It's an administrative thing," Commissioner Bobbi Mills said.

"I said when I was first asked (Tuesday) . . . we are doing very well in the county, but if Swiftmud has changed the rules, we have to follow them," Chairman Paul Sullivan said. "My position hasn't changed on that."

Swiftmud spokesman Michael Molligan said agency officials talked with county staff about allowing some addresses to water on days other than Tuesday or Sunday, but discussion about letting property owners water more than once a week did not come up.

Rather, the specter of trying to educate residents about a split watering schedule -- a potentially complicated endeavor -- drove the decision, Adams said.

"It's easier just to follow Swiftmud," she said. "They're the ones who are advertising. The message will get out better to everyone."

That point played well with Sullivan, who said that while he supported the new rule, he would not vote to spend money to advertise it. Using letters in water bills, postings on government access cable and several other efforts, the county worked diligently to gain compliance with the twice-a-week rule, he said.

"To go ahead and change it without contacting the counties first, I would not support any additional expenses for enforcement," Sullivan said.

Beginning Monday and through June 30, homes with even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays only, and homes with odd-numbered addresses may water on Sundays only. No watering may be done between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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