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Some are steamed over water reuse plan

County officials say they are moving forward so that cost estimates for a reclaimed water system can be better estimated.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


ODESSA -- A proposal to bring reclaimed water to Van Dyke Farms is on track even though the very idea continues to divide this upscale Odessa neighborhood.

Consultants and county staff met with residents Tuesday night to brief them on the project's progress and to answer questions. If county commissioners approve the $1.23-million project, construction is scheduled to begin this winter with completion next summer.

Reclaimed water is not clean enough for drinking or cooking but it can be used for lawn irrigation. However, before the county will bring reclaimed water to a neighborhood at least 51 percent must sign a petition saying they want it, an amenity estimated to cost about $400 a year for 20 years.

The County Commission, which has the final say, will hold a public hearing so residents in favor of or against the project can be heard. And unless things change within the next few months, the Sept. 7 public hearing for Van Dyke Farms promises to be heated.

"I was lied to," resident Jack Plescia said after the meeting. "I've done the math. I don't want it."

Plescia's sentiment echos that of many of his neighbors. But just how many is unclear because there is disagreement over how the signatures were gathered on the original petition that set the plan in motion. Some residents say their neighbors misled them. And in subsequent months other petitions have circulated, each garnering different numbers.

"How can this be forced upon everyone?" asked Todd Burchardt who figures after factoring out a swimming pool and mulched play area that he has about 5,000 square feet of grass.

"Why should I pay for someone else to water their 21,000 square feet of lawn?"

The community investment tax covers the cost of bringing reclaimed water to a subdivision, but residents must pay for additional pipes within the subdivision and for their individual lots.

County officials, who believe they have 55 percent approval, are moving forward with the project so they can get a better estimate of what the project will cost residents. "It's the right thing to do," said resident David Moore. "We have a water supply problem. This will solve it and from a cost point of view it's a wash."

-- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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