DADE CITY — City Commissioner Camille Hernandez and about a dozen other residents have until the end of this week to explain their private wells to city officials — or face a possible fine.
A 1982 ordinance bans private wells within the city limits in order to protect the city's water supply and utility revenue. After documentation surfaced last fall indicating Hernandez had her own well, officials sent out notices to her and other residents who may have had wells installed after the ban was enacted.
Those residents have until Friday to prove that they have either abandoned the well, or that their well precedes the 1982 ordinance and has the proper backflow protection device.
"We would love for everybody to be in compliance by then," said City Manager Billy Poe. "If they can just prove that they're in the process of doing it, we'll work with them."
As of Monday afternoon, Hernandez had not responded to the city's notice. The Hernandezes have refused to comment about the issue to the Times.
At a commission meeting last fall, Hernandez denied there was an illegal well on her property. Her husband, David, has reportedly claimed it was a pre-existing well that the couple uncapped after buying the home in 1997, but the previous homeowner told the Times she was not aware of any well on the property.
The well issue has been challenged in the past, most recently by Hernandez, who at an October commission meeting said she wanted to explore repealing the ban.
A few days later, a 2007 letter from former City Manager Harold Sample to Hernandez's husband surfaced at City Hall stating that the couple had a private well on their Bougainvillea Avenue property.
The commission later voted to uphold the ban, since allowing private wells could violate the bond covenants on money borrowed for utility improvements in recent years. Under the bond covenants, the city agreed not to allow competing systems for utilities.
Another notable name on the list of private well owners is Robert Avila, who ran unsuccessfully for the City Commission against Steve Van Gorden in 2008. Avila could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
His wife has reportedly called Poe and said the well was on their Robinson Avenue property when they purchased it in 1999.
"She obviously wants to keep it," Poe said. "That was a big selling point."
Only a few responses to the city's notices have trickled in so far. Those who do not comply could face a fine of up to $500 and a potential county court case.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.