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County, Dade City may share a wastewater plant

DADE CITY — Both the county and Dade City are grappling with wastewater plant issues in east Pasco, and some people think they have a solution.

Why don't the two entities join forces and use one plant?

County and city officials are in preliminary talks on such an deal, though a final agreement is far off and could prove elusive.

The talks stem from a pair of problems.

A group of Blanton residents are organizing against a planned county wastewater plant that would be built off Powerline and Christian roads to serve the Trilby and Lacoochee communities as well as future growth on U.S. 301.

Meanwhile, Dade City faces pressure to relocate its aging facility in the Mickens-Harper neighborhood. Residents say the 1950s-era plant is a lingering insult to the historically black community.

"Dade City's existing wastewater treatment plant is more than capable of treating and recycling additional wastewater," said Scott Hutchison, one of the residents mobilizing against the county plant. "I respectfully ask that the county commissioners immediately stop any more futile and wasteful efforts" to build the northeast Pasco facility.

Dade City Manager Billy Poe reached out to the county about a possible deal at the request of city commissioners. He said the city currently uses up to 550,000 gallons per day out of a 1.5 million gallon capacity. The county plans to build a 300,000-gallon plant that would eventually expand to 600,000 gallons.

"This would be a way for us to get some additional users and additional revenues," Poe said. But he added, "There's a lot of discussion that needs to take place."

When Dade City adopted a long-term sewer plant proposal in 2009, officials planned to expand the current site in Mickens-Harper. That would have taken over an adjacent neighborhood ball field. But after an outcry from residents last fall, officials reversed course. They planned to relocate a reclaimed water storage tank and promised to someday move the entire plant out of Mickens-Harper.

A move might not come for 20 years, as the city waits for enough growth to justify a larger plant. But, having the county as a partner could accelerate the timeline. For one thing, it would provide revenue from the county that could help build a new plant. Also, with the county using a significant chunk of the plant's capacity, the city would likely need a new plant sooner.

County Administrator John Gallagher said the county offered to hook up to the city system in 2010, but the deal fell through. So, the county last year spent $2.1 million for a 278-acre tract in Blanton for its own facility. The property would provide for nearly a 600-foot buffer around the plant and the county got a fair price, he said.

"After I spend a couple of million dollars on a piece of land, all the sudden I'm supposed to run miles of pipe to their facility?" Gallagher said.

County utilities director Bruce Kennedy said his staff estimated it would cost nearly $8 million for the pipelines and pump stations needed to hook into the Dade City facility. That's in addition to what the city would charge to use the treatment plant. By contrast, Kennedy said, it could cost roughly $4 million to build the county's own plant.

The push for the county plant came after a 2009 redevelopment study for Trilby and Lacoochee. The public housing projects in that area are served by a small package plant, but a large commercial business would need an upgraded system. A new plant would provide more reliable service for residents while also removing a barrier for a major employer.

The county is in no rush to build the facility — it would likely wait until a large business signals interest in the area. But the having the land secured is key, Gallagher said, because a business isn't "going to wait around five or six years for sewer."

County Commissioner Ted Schrader added that Dade City does not have long-term leases to dispose of its treated wastewater. The county, he said, is planning an extensive reservoir system that would provide a long-term solution.

"The county just has to have certainty, and the only way to do it is to build it yourself," he said.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

County, Dade City may share a wastewater plant 02/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2012 8:41pm]
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