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Residents may settle Hudson sewer battle

Pasco County commissioners are embracing a compromise first suggested by state Sen. Jack Latvala in an effort to resolve a lingering Hudson sewer impasse.

Latvala's idea: Let residents themselves decide on a street-by-street basis whether they want a private utility to win the authority to place liens on homes where residents refuse to pay sewer-connection fees.

"I think in some respect we have a moral obligation and responsibility to help people," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said. "There is an environmental and health hazard. Yet the perception is that we can solve this problem overnight."

Many residents living along canals west of U.S. 19 in Hudson have malfunctioning septic systems that overflow during the rainy season, leaving them without the use of their bathrooms.

Hudson Utilities, a private utility providing sewer service in the area, wants to extend its system to these homes. But its lender is balking at providing a $3-million loan allowing the expansion.

The lender wants Pasco commissioners to give the utility the power to place liens on homes that refuse to pay a $1,600 connection fee, which would help guarantee its investment. Some residents oppose giving the utility that power, and commissioners have refused.

Latvala's compromise would allow residents who are going to have to pay the fee to decide whether they want Hudson Utilities to get that authority.

Commissioners on Tuesday told County Administrator John Gallagher to contact the utility and research how Pasco might go about the task of polling residents.

Under Latvala's plan, before any part of a neighborhood can be connected, a majority of its residents must vote to grant Hudson Utilities the lien authority it desires. If a neighborhood declines, it would not be connected to the utility system.

"I think it's prudent to at least find out what the support is up there," Commission Chairman Ed Collins said.

Mathew Griffin, Hudson's utility manager, said the utility would support the plan.

"As long as it's a true vote of everybody who needs service, we're not worried," Griffin said. "All the polls we've ever done have shown that everybody up here wants service."

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