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County approves sewer extension

Searching for a way to bring sewer service to the Homosassa area as quickly as possible, county commissioners on Tuesday approved a plan to begin laying sewer lines next October.

County Administrator Gary Kuhl said the county might be able to help pay for the $2.7-million sewer extension from the county's Meadowcrest wastewater treatment plant with grants and loans from other agencies.

In particular, Kuhl said, the county will apply for state community development block grants totaling $1.5-million as well as a federal rural development loan.

He also said the county might need to rely on funding from residents, through a regional assessment, although the amount of any assessment remains undecided.

The first phase of construction would involve building sewer pipes and their supporting machinery to connect the Meadowcrest treatment plant to residential areas along County Road 490 and businesses along U.S. 19 near its intersection with County Road 490.

While it remains undecided how far along U.S. 19 the sewer lines would run, public works project coordinator Mike Moore said that will depend on the number of jobs a sewer extension in that area might produce.

Central sewer systems generally spur economic development, making an area more appealing to businesses, especially to large franchises that require a large sewer capacity, such as restaurants.

To submit a successful application for an economic development grant, Moore said, "We're going to have to show that we can establish a minimum of 35 jobs."

Later phases of construction, beginning in 1999 and extending into 2002, would include extending sewer lines to the Riverhaven area, which is struggling to deal with a failing sewage treatment plant, to Old Homosassa, to the Mason Creek area and to Homosassa Springs, east of U.S. 19.

Eventually, county commissioners hope to connect homes and businesses in the area to a new regional wastewater treatment plant, which would cost an estimated $16-million to build.

Kuhl said financing for the sewer extension project, one of several recently targeted by commissioners, will resemble a mosaic.

In some areas, he said, grants might be available for low- and middle-income neighborhoods, but communities such as upscale Riverhaven, he said, likely would not qualify for those grants.

"The challenge that we have here is to fit all of these pieces together," he said.

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