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Watering rules may change . . . again

Zephyrhills officials will consider adopting the county's plan for water restrictions.

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 12, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- All the recent changes in local watering restrictions have overwhelmed Zephyrhills resident Terri Butts.

She has lost track of when she's allowed to water, so by default, she turns on the sprinklers on the one day she doesn't work each week.

"It's been so confusing," Butts said. "You don't know when you're supposed to water."

Tonight, the City Council will consider yet another change in the city's watering rules. But City Manager Steve Spina hopes the change will help eliminate any confusion.

Spina is proposing that the City Council follow the lead of the Pasco County Commission, which last month adopted an emergency ordinance that spreads out the once-a-week watering schedule over the five weekdays.

He also will ask council members if they want to follow the county and ban the residential use and sale of fireworks in the city, at least until the summer rains come and snuff out brush fire conditions.

The water restrictions currently in place in Zephyrhills allow even-numbered addresses to water on Tuesdays and odd-numbered addresses to water on Sundays. The county's new schedule -- which Spina proposesfor Zephyrhills -- allows residents in unincorporated Pasco to water on Mondays if their address ends in 0 or 1, Tuesdays if it's 2 or 3, Wednesdays if it's 4 or 5, Thursdays if it's 6 or 7, and Fridays if it's 8 or 9.

The change would suit Butts perfectly: Her address ends in 7, which means she'd be allowed to water on Thursdays, her day off.

But the change would mean nothing to Louise Lashley and other city residents who've decided not to water their lawns at all until the drought ends.

"I feel it's my civic duty to conserve as much water as I can," said Lashley, adding that her lawn "has completely burned up."

County commissioners decided to spread out watering over five weekdays, and eliminate weekends altogether, because water use got so high on Tuesdays and Sundays that residents in unincorporated Pasco experienced low pressure in their taps and sprinkler systems on those days.

The county's new schedule only allows residents to water once on their assigned days, either before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

While there has been no drop in water pressure in Zephyrhills, Spina said the city should adopt the same restrictions as the county because some city residents, confused over what rules they should follow, have been watering on the county's days.

Council members Elizabeth Geiger and Tim Ippolito said last week that they support changing the city's watering restrictions if for no other reason than to eliminate the disparities between Zephyrhills and the county.

"Overall, I think it's a good idea to be consistent with the county," Geiger said. "There's a lot of confusion among residents over where the city limits are and which rules apply to them."

For the same reason, Geiger said she supported a citywide ban on the private sale and use of fireworks. County commissioners banned the residential use of fireworks in April and outlawed their sale for private use earlier this month.

The county's fireworks ban expires this week, but commissioners can extend it for 72-hour periods until the record drought gives way to summer rains. Spina is proposing that the city's ban on fireworks last two weeks, with the option of extending it at the council's discretion.

"This way we can keep it in effect as long as we need it," Spina said. "The last thing we want is an ordinance that we don't need."

Professional fireworks displays are still permitted in the county, and Spina is recommending that council members allow them in the city as well.

Ippolito, a firefighter with the city of Tampa, said he was inclined to vote for the fireworks ban, but added: "In my professional career, I haven't been out to too many house fires or brush fires caused by fireworks. Cigarette butts are about 10 times more likely (to start a fire). Maybe we should ban cigarette butts, too.

"But seriously," he added, "it doesn't really matter to me. I guess it's best to do what the county does."

The differing fireworks ordinances among local governments has already caused some confusion in Zephyrhills.

A large fireworks show at the Zephyrhills High graduation party June 2 drew criticisms from residents questioning whether such a display was wise, given the dry conditions, or even legal.

Spina said the city approved the fireworks display, but "in hindsight, it might not have been the smartest thing to do. But there was nothing wrong with it."

As a precaution, Spina said, six firefighters were standing by during the display with water hoses.

The City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

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