RIDGE MANOR WEST — Hernando County utilities officials want to make their water operations on the east side of the county more efficient and be prepared for future growth.
They believe they have found the perfect site for a combined water treatment plant and well field on a 17.6-acre parcel north of Cortez Boulevard along the western side of Sherman Hills Boulevard. One active 16-inch well and a well casing ready to be tapped are on adjacent county property.
But nearby neighbors in Ridge Manor West and Sherman Hills say that the property is the wrong place for expanded utilities. They have organized a petition drive and plan to bring a stack of questions when county officials hold an informational meeting for residents at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the utilities administration building on Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville.
Ridge Manor West resident Dorene McAndrews has been doing research on well fields, and she and other neighbors are worried that pumping at the site will cause sinkholes.
She points to a case in 1998 when the owner of a Spring Hill television repair and sales business watched the back of his shop slide into an 80-foot-deep, 150-foot-wide sinkhole.
The business owner blamed the adjacent Florida Water Services pumping station, and in 2000 a geologist from the Southwest Florida Water Management District agreed, writing: "I find ample reasons to conclude that the operation of the wells by Florida Water Services substantially contributed to or may have caused the sinkhole event."
McAndrews also contends that a water operation on the parcel, currently owned by Lee Pallardy Inc. Profit Sharing and 401K Plan, will be an eyesore, will put the neighborhood in jeopardy from chemicals used at water plants and will lower property values.
Sherman Hills property owner Alfred Broadman said the water operation doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood, and he wonders why the county settled on the Pallardy site when the county Utilities Department already owns a large parcel on nearby Kettering Road.
The County Commission approved a contract to pay $470,000 for the Pallardy site in November, contingent on a rezoning to industrial use and on a hydro-geological evaluation.
The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission will consider the rezoning next month, and the County Commission several weeks later.
The site evaluation has been completed, and there was no mention of the potential for sinkholes, said Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's director of environmental services.
She said the Kettering Road property has a sewage treatment plant on it and would not be used for a well field.
The Pallardy site will allow the eventual construction of two water storage tanks that could eventually hold 4 million gallons, as many as nine wells and a water treatment facility that could serve the Cortez corridor all the way to U.S 301, Goebel-Canning said.
Building there would allow the county to close a smaller treatment plant on Lockhart Road and other small, less-efficient water facilities in the area.