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City's lawyers weigh in on Brooksville's reclaimed water project

BROOKSVILLE — Attorneys for the city of Brooksville have asked a judge to reject a motion for a temporary injunction filed by two property owners at Southern Hills Plantation Club who want to stop the city from going ahead with plans to complete a reclaimed water project.

The city's response, filed in October, refutes the motion filed in August by James and Paula Holliday and Gary and Cynthia Sutton, demanding that the city freeze the remaining funds from a $3.5 million court settlement until the city completes infrastructure and road paving on Real Tree Lane in Southern Hills' Phase 3, where their undeveloped lots are located.

Attorneys with the Hogan Law Firm, which represents the city, argued that the property owners were premature in their motion and that the city "never expressed an unwillingness to proceed with the construction of needed infrastructure."

The reclaimed water project was part of the original 2003 deal between the city and Southern Hills developer LandMar Group LLC, which agreed to share in the cost of upgrading the city's wastewater treatment facility with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which provided a $1.1 million matching grant for the project.

The treatment facility was to provide up to 750,000 gallons of treated wastewater for use in irrigating the development's golf course and residential yards.

But LandMar's 2008 bankruptcy filing and subsequent abandonment of the development changed all of that. To pay for completion of the infrastructure, the city began foreclosure proceedings last year on more than $20 million in performance bonds from three surety companies.

In June, the city settled cases with two of the companies for $3.5 million. Twenty-five percent of the money — or $875,000 — went toward legal fees incurred by the Hogan Law Firm. The third lawsuit remains unsettled.

Last year, the City Council approved a resolution stating that any recovered money would go toward the unfinished infrastructure at Southern Hills. The resolution, however, did not stipulate what parts of the project would be completed first.

In August, Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha defended the decision to complete the reclaimed water project as quickly as possible, saying further delays could prevent the city from meeting a February 2012 deadline set by Swiftmud to use the grant money.

Norman-Vacha also said that city staffers continue to work with Greenpointe Communities, the company that acquired Southern Hills last year, in coordinating plans to complete all of the infrastructure.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

City's lawyers weigh in on Brooksville's reclaimed water project 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 7:04pm]
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