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Information on reclaimed water comes in dribbles

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


CITRUS PARK -- About 200 Fawn Ridge residents showed up for a county meeting Tuesday at Sickles High School to learn more about reclaimed water but walked away with most of their questions unanswered, and some answered incorrectly.

"I came to the meeting to find out about the cost," said Wanda Vereen. "I thought it would be more specific."

So did Steve Valdez, the county's community relations manager, who the next day was preparing a newsletter for residents, as well as a clarification.

"These are not rocket science questions," Valdez said. "The project manager should have all those questions answered ahead of time. We didn't do our homework."

Valdez said residents can expect to pay $219.95 a year, give or take 10 percent, for the next 20 years, as well as a $7.50 flat use charge every month.

Valdez also wanted to clear up confusion over a hook-up charge.

"There is no one-time hook-up charge of $2,000," or for any other amount, Valdez said.

Valdez's letter also was meant to clarify incorrect information about the installation of meter boxes outside each home.

"There is a flat fee that is charged every month," Valdez said. But "we do not meter reclaimed water."

Residents were concerned that they would eventually be charged for the amount of reclaimed water they use after the project manager described the installation of meter boxes outside their homes.

"All of our agreements say unlimited use," Valdez said. "We are asking everyone to be considerate of all the users on the system and to try to limit their water to three times a week because that unlimited use has a qualifier based on the availability."

Because of the drought, the county recently hit a saturation point and ran out of reclaimed water. The purple boxes, Valdez said, are used as a junction point for the sprinkler system hookup and not to keep track of the amount of water being used.

About three years ago, Fawn Ridge residents approved an initiative to bring reclaimed water to their neighborhood, a process that requires at least 51 percent sign a petition saying they want reclaimed water.

Many residents at the meeting Tuesday night appeared eager for the amenity.

"We came to see if there were any changes," said Chip Branam. "I think it will make our lawns nicer and increase the value of our homes."

The community investment tax covers the cost of bringing reclaimed water lines to a subdivision. But residents must pay for additional pipes within their subdivision and to their individual lots. That cost can range anywhere from $200 to $400, as well as a flat rate of $6 to $7 a month.

After sewage is cleaned up at a wastewater treatment plant and treated with chlorine, the resulting water is not clean enough for drinking but it is perfect for lawn irrigation.

The $1.25-million Fawn Ridge project will include construction of a distribution line from an existing line near the neighborhood park on Exposition Drive. Project manager Ebrahim Maidani, who explained how water lines would be tunneled under the street, sidewalks and driveways, said residents should expect to be sprinkling their lawns with reclaimed water by this time next year.

The County Commission has final say.

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