City officials consider offering a discount and waiving hookup fees for the next 1,500 to sign up.
By ERIC STIRGUS
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2000
LARGO -- Hoping to entice more residents to hook up to Largo's reclaimed water system, city officials want to waive the $250 connection fee for the next 1,500 residents who apply.
Encouraging Largo residents to hook up to the city's system has been a tough sell. About 1,200 Largo residents now pay the $7 monthly fee for the city's reclaimed water system. Largo has spent $22.1-million on its reclaimed water transmission network.
"The system is very expensive, and we don't have many people hooked up," said Norton Craig, the city's Environmental Services director.
Some residents have said the hookup charge is too high. A few wary souls do not know much about reclaimed water. Many people, aware of the source of the water, are reluctant to sign up to the city's system, believing reclaimed water smells.
"I think there are some people who will always feel this way," said Kenneth Knight, a management analyst for the city.
City commissioners will discuss whether to vote in favor of the recommendation at a commission meeting tonight.
Those 1,500 residents would also get a $50 credit toward their monthly reclaimed water bills. Residents who refer others to the city's system would get a $25 discount on their reclaimed water bills.
The proposal, if successful, would cost Largo about $450,000 in revenue.
But city officials say they are looking at the long-term picture, and by their math, Largo will recoup the connection fee costs through monthly use of the system. In a staff memo outlining the proposal, officials estimated the 1,500 residents would bring $126,000 to city coffers each year.
City officials said they did not know what percentage of residents eligible to hook up to Largo's reclaimed water system have done so.
Clearwater and Pinellas County do not charge a connection fee.
Not all of Largo is connected to reclaimed water, which is highly treated sewage and not suitable to drink. Several neighborhoods get reclaimed water, and five others are in the process of receiving it. Residents outside those areas who want reclaimed water must turn in a petition signed by at least 75 percent of residents in a neighborhood or subdivision.
Patrick McDonnell, a retired U.S. Army colonel who lives in one of the neighborhoods that is being connected to the city's system, led a successful petition drive to get reclaimed water in the Bluffs Drive area. A handful of his neighbors said they would rather rely on their wells.
"They're going to go until the well runs dry," he said.