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Lindrick purchase should improve water service

The proposed acquisition of Lindrick Service Corp. by a government authority should bring better service and a higher quality of tap water to the residents of Gulf Harbors and other coastal neighborhoods who, for years, have tolerated low pressure and frequent contamination concerns.

The $16.8 million cost for Lindrick might sound familiar. It is the same asking price first floated by the utility nine years ago when Pasco County surveyed private utilities about a possible purchase. That price tag is nearly 250 percent more than what Lindrick sought from the city of New Port Richey in the mid 1990s, but less than the $19.5 million Port Richey city government staffers were willing to pay in 2000.

None of those local governments is the purchaser now, however. Florida Governmental Utility Authority, a cooperative Pasco County joined in 2008, will be the owner. The same authority purchased Aloha Utilities in Seven Springs and Trinity last year.

While Lindrick's notoriety does not match the black-water complaints at Aloha, its performance record is hardly exemplary. Boil-water notices to customers are common as are complaints about lower water pressure.

Over the years Lindrick: sent out bills to customers with new higher rates before they were effective; had to comply with state-ordered repairs because of pollution concerns; was ambiguous about its close ties to the owners of disputed wells in the scuttled deal with Port Richey; failed to properly tell its customers to boil their water after Hurricane Jeanne knocked out electrical service in 2004; battled with environmental regulators over using two wells the state said were too close to septic tanks; and drew the ire of firefighters who said the utility's low pressure would inhibit their ability to combat house fires. No wonder the county wanted to take it out of private ownership.

The takeover also could ease the projected strain on customers' pocketbooks. The utility's 4,600 customers already faced the prospect of a nearly 60 percent rate increase Lindrick requested in September, but the authority said its acquisition should halve that needed increase, and the higher rates would be phased in over three years.

The money will help finance more than $4 million in capital improvements that should improve water pressure, reduce boil water notices and reduce chloride levels in wastewater. The authority will replace lines instead of repairing them to reduce service interruptions, and seek to buy additional water from New Port Richey to meet growth demands and to supplement the water produced by Lindrick's wells.

The cost of the acquisition is absorbed by Lindrick's ratepayers, not customers of Pasco County utilities. It's a deal that needs to be completed to provide Lindrick customers with safe, reliable service that too frequently went lacking.

Lindrick purchase should improve water service 10/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 7:57pm]
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