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Hernando commissioners delay debate on funds for central water system

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners decided on Tuesday to delay discussions on whether to seek federal stimulus dollars for a central water system to help residents who have elevated levels of arsenic in their well water.

State officials had asked Hernando to take preliminary steps to seek funding for a water system to serve homes in rural areas southeast of Brooksville. The system could cost $15 million, and state officials have sent mixed messages about how much the county could get in grants or loans.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell was concerned that the next steps would mean the county would spend money before knowing how much help might be available. Russell, who lives in the affected area, said the state program providing residents with bottled water and filtering systems was working.

He was also concerned that a central water system could open the area up to development. Commissioners agreed unanimously to allow staff to continue to monitor the availability of funds.

In other action:

• Commissioners agreed to decide on June 9 whether to allow expansion of a residential drug treatment program in a Spring Hill neighborhood. Neighbors of the center on Cessna Drive had asked the board to overturn the Planning and Zoning Commission's approval.

The property was originally an adult congregate care facility but became a drug treatment program last year when new owners purchased it. Those owners, who are affiliated with the Church of Scientology, want to increase the number of beds from 22 to 54 and to add other amenities to the three-acre site.

• Commissioners took the first steps to upgrade the Glen wastewater treatment plant, eventually closing the Weeki Wachee plant; to expand the availability of water for reuse; and to make other system improvements.

Cost of the project is an estimated $40 million and funding could come from state appropriations, loans and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the planning document for the project and the loan agreement.

Commissioners also approved changes to the utilities code to access those state loans. One will require county residents to hook up to wastewater services as they become available, bringing the county's rules in line with state rules.

Utilities director Joe Stapf said the availability of wastewater service was a complex issue of determining capacity, and he didn't see that the change in the rule would force many people to have to hook onto the system. Commissioners tweaked the rule language to make sure of that.

Hernando commissioners delay debate on funds for central water system 04/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 8:13pm]
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