Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Tarpon Springs ready to drop the hammer on condo associations for unpaid water bills

TARPON SPRINGS — For years, two condominium associations here have squabbled.

The neighboring complexes along Lake Tarpon share one water meter. But one association hasn't been paying its portion of the bill, even after the other successfully sued it over the issue.

Now the city of Tarpon Springs, which supplies the water, is left to referee the tiff. And when the delinquent association doesn't pay for its water service, the city has to cover the charges.

The cost of those ignored bills so far: $10,000.

"Obviously, we aren't going to be subsidizing anybody's water bill," said Commissioner Jeff Larsen. "That isn't an acceptable solution."

But a better solution isn't simple. Even after imposing a lien for the unpaid bills, the city can't just turn off the water. That's because the complexes' fire hydrants and fire sprinklers connect to the same water lines.

In Florida, it's a misdemeanor to make fire protection systems inoperable except by court order. On Tuesday, city officials grimly discussed obtaining such an order, hoping to settle the hefty debt while also ensuring the associations stay current on payments.

The shared water bill goes to the condo association for the first phase of the development, Tarpon Highlands at Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club I. It pays part of the bill, proportionate to the 46 units connected to the water meter.

An agreement calls for Tarpon Highlands at Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club II, the second phase of the development, to pay proportionate to its 14 units hooked up to the meter.

Unable to compel Club II to carry its share, Club I appears to have handed that responsibility to the city, officials said. Club I has kept up with its water bill but refuses to shoulder Club II's portion.

"In essence, they said, 'City and the taxpayers of Tarpon Springs, it's on you,' " City Manager Mark LeCouris said.

In 2009, Club I tried to take Club II to court over the lapse in water and sewer payments. Club II was nearly $2,000 behind on those bills, according to a lawsuit filed in Pinellas Circuit Court.

When Club II didn't answer the lawsuit, a judge ordered the association to give Club I more than $7,000 in damages, interest and court costs.

Club II belatedly responded to the complaint, claiming it sent a letter earlier but mistakenly referenced the wrong case number. The association admitted to not paying the expenses but didn't acknowledge the agreement to split the bill.

Court records also show a "master" association that oversaw several phases of the Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club development won a 2010 lawsuit against Club II for unpaid monthly fees.

A reporter's call to the registered agent of the Club II association went unreturned. The association's officers, Aliona and W. Mark Sanders, couldn't be reached.

This time, city officials say they won't allow Club II to stop paying. And they won't allow Club I to let Club II stop paying, either.

"They're forcing our hand," said Mayor David Archie.

The city attorney plans to meet with the associations' attorneys to try to get the condo complexes up to speed on water payments. If Club II doesn't start making good, the city is willing to move forward with cutting off water.

The city will notify condo residents if the problem gets that far. But if the water shuts off, the fire protection systems will be disabled, and residents will have to move out.

"So really," Commissioner Townsend Tarapani mused at Tuesday's meeting, "our only option is match their power play with a power play.

"I like power plays."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or [email protected]

Comments
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman and the coac...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together.

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together.

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

TAMPA — The debate over whether "Rep" or "Dem" should be on the ballot alongside the name of candidates for sheriff or property appraiser is now in the hands of Hillsborough County voters.Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to hold ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 6 hours ago