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Bayport Inn pays more than $57,000 in one of its final steps in ending its building and wastewater problems with county officials.
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 26, 2000
The Bayport Inn is close to closing the door on all outstanding problems with Hernando County officials on building and wastewater problems.
Last week, the restaurant gave more than $57,000 as partial payment for and connection to a new county sewer line from the Weeki Wachee Wastewater Treatment plant to a pump station near the restaurant. It must pay another $8,000 to build a pipe across the road from the restaurant to the county's sewer line.
The total cost of the county pipeline is $125,000, of which Bayport is paying 20 percent. The new line got the green light last week when the County Commission voted unanimously to approve the project.
The move comes two months after county prosecutors announced they would not press charges against the inn or its owner, Bruce Hammond, for pumping raw sewage into neighboring property, a problem discovered in June. Prosecutors said they lacked sufficient evidence to move forward with the case or prove who laid the pipe or when.
Authorities concluded that money for a fine would be more useful bringing the restaurant in line with the county Health Department.
At the time of the announcement by prosecutors, the Health Department's environmental health manager, Al Gray, said the inn had already sealed off its unpermitted septic tanks and set up a new sump pump and wastewater storage system. The only outstanding requirement was for Bayport to connect to the county's sewer system.
Despite the agreement, that connection could take another six to nine months before the line is even constructed, said Kay Adams, the county's utilities director.
The county oversized the line so that future sewer lines from Pine Island and Bayport Park could tie into it, Adams said. Future residents on 100 lots in the area will have to pay $6,000 to hook into those lines.
As for the restaurant's bills, general manager Lauren Murphy said Bayport not only paid a lot of money to fix the situation but also lost customers from the negative reports in the media. She thinks the customers will start rolling back in now that the problems are being solved.
"We have spent hundreds and hundreds and thousands of dollars to rectify the problems," Murphy said.
That won't stop too soon.
Grant Tolbert, the county's development director, said Bayport still owes thousands of dollars in fines and building permits for remodeling, work on the roof and the expansion of its kitchen -- work done the past three years without required permits.
Now that the sewer issue is settled, Tolbert said the restaurant can pay the fines when it pays for permit fees for the pumping station needed with the sewer line. The fines are double the cost of the building permits for the earlier work. The total amount of building permits plus fines could reach $3,000, he said.
"We'll require that the roof complies with wind loads," he said. "But it's just a paperwork issue at this point."