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Sewage plan gets approval

A short-lived building moratorium in several central Pasco subdivisions ended Tuesday as county commissioners approved an emergency sewage treatment plan. Under the plan, sewage will be diverted from two treatment plants operated by Mad Hatter Utilities of Lutz to the county's sub-regional waste-water treatment plant in Land O'Lakes.

County officials enacted the building moratoriums in recent weeks at the request of the state Department of Environmental Regulation. No new construction was allowed in the Turtle Lakes, Carpenters Run, Foxwood, Twin Lakes and Village on the Pond subdivisions or on some commercial property on State Road 54.

Mad Hatter has had problems finding enough room in its percolation ponds and irrigation fields for all the waste water treated in its Foxwood and Turtle Lakes plants, said Joe Squitieri, an environmental specialist in DER's Tampa office. He said the problem was most critical at the Foxwood plant.

"That needs to be solved immediately," he said. DER asked the county to enact building moratoriums so that officials wouldn't "compound the problem by adding more flow to it," he said.

The hookup to the county system is supposed to occur within 90 days. Assistant County Administrator Doug Bramlett said the county would resume issuing building permits immediately because no houses started now would be finished before the connection is made.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mad Hatter will pay the county's standard rate for treating large amounts of sewage. The agreement expires in 18 months.

In other business, commissioners also:

Supported a proposal to honor Jim Courier, the Dade City resident who won the French Open men's singles tennis championship Sunday. Commissioners plan to adopt a formal resolution commending Courier in coming weeks.

Agreed to extend to the entire Tampa Bay area their search for a new county attorney.

The decision follows last week's false start in the effort to replace Ben Harrill, who plans to leave his position as county attorney in mid-July.

Commission Chairman Mike Wells wanted the commission to interview Chris Miller, a Clearwater lawyer who had worked as an assistant county attorney and as an aide to U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. Miller withdrew his name after learning that some commissioners wanted to conduct a more wide-ranging search.

"Obviously, my plan didn't work, so (let's) back up, and punt and try again," Wells said.

As a replacement for Harrill, who spent 12 years with the county, commissioners want a lawyer with at least five years' experience. Two of those years must have been spent practicing local government law. The county also wants a lawyer who is knowledgeable about administrative law.

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