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Name muddies plan, some say

The Chassahowitzka wastewater system's name has been changed. Some say it will help garner funding. Others say it clogs the works.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


INVERNESS -- What's in a name?

The key to funding, at least where the Chassahowitzka wastewater system is concerned. The project's lead supporters agree that the right identity makes the system a better candidate for state grants.

They are just at odds over what that name should be.

Mickey Newberger, spokesman for the Chassahowitzka River Restoration Committee, said he has spent the past few years familiarizing legislators with the "Chassahowitzka River Wastewater Collection System."

Now that the county has renamed the project "Phase 4 of the Homosassa Regional Wastewater System," Newberger fears that legislators will not recognize or finance the project. In a May 15 letter to the county, Newberger and committee president Bryan Stafford asked the county to change the name back.

"To change names would be like a person changing their name and phone number," the letter reads. "That person would have to go to each and every individual to regain identity. It would be even more difficult to do in the legislature due to massive amounts of documents etc. before them each year."

Calling the project Homosassa Phase 4, the letter says, "is ill-conceived and can only destroy the identity of the project thus making it difficult to obtain future funding."

But County Commissioner Gary Bartell said it is the new name that is helping the project qualify for funding.

The county changed the name last fall after deciding to connect the Chassahowitzka line to the county's Homosassa system, not the neighboring private system in Sugarmill Woods.

In addition to being a more accurate name for the project, Bartell said describing the Chassahowitzka project as an extension of the Homosassa system helped the project secure $1-million from the state budget, which awaits the governor's signature.

Gov. Jeb Bush had said he would only support funding for ongoing water-quality projects, and although part of the Homosassa project is up and running, the Chassahowitzka system itself does not have a single pipe in the ground.

"In my opinion, (Newberger) is absolutely incorrect that (the name change to Homosassa Phase 4) will hurt its chances for funding," Bartell said. "It enhances its chances for funding because it is part of an ongoing project with an excellent track record and excellent results."

The Chassahowitzka project also is in the running for a $350,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District because it is tied in with the Homosassa system, Bartell said.

Swiftmud only can provide grants for sewer lines that have reuse projects, in which wastewater is treated and used to irrigate lawns or golf courses. The Homosassa system will have a reuse project, but the Chassahowitzka system by itself would not, Bartell said.

"If it wasn't done this way, Chassahowitzka wouldn't receive a penny," Bartell said.

Although Newberger supports calling the system "Homosassa Phase 4" on the application for the Swiftmud grant, he said changing the name on any other funding requests will only confuse the legislators who recognize the project under the Chassahowitzka name.

His letter noted that all legislative documents identify the project as "Chassahowitzka."

Bartell said future grant applications would go under the name of "Homosassa Phase 4," but the application would note that the project was called the Chassahowitzka system.

"I'm not going to sacrifice Citrus County's reputation of a proven track record just for the sake of a name change back to another name," Bartell said. "When the projects come up next year . . . I'll guarantee you that everyone you work with will understand explicitly that this project is part of the Homosassa project, that we're building two different systems and tying them together."

Newberger says that the name change will cause confusion that could deprive the project of future funding, but Bartell said the issue has been blown out of proportion.

"I don't care what anybody calls it, as long as the project is completed and some relief is given to our rivers," Bartell said. "We can call it the Mickey Newberger Project. I don't care."

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