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Flooding solutions may prove costly

When the rains come, the street where Kelly Graf lives fills with water, as does her front yard and, sometimes, the floors of her home.

Graf lives in Lake Padgett Estates East, where well-worn roads and poor drainage have led to serious flooding more than a dozen times in recent months.

County officials, who met with Lake Padgett homeowners Thursday night, sympathize but say the problem is not limited to central Pasco.

Throughout the county, homeowners have been plagued with flooded streets and yards during recent heavy rains. Many still have not fully recovered..

"We have places in Shady Hills where people cannot get to their homes when it rains," County Commissioner Pat Mulieri said. "You all are not alone out here."

Finding solutions, she warned, might be costly.

"We know the roads need fixing," Mulieri said. "Pasco County does not have the money to fix all the roads and clean out all the culverts that need it. We need your help and we need your ideas."

It might not have been precisely what Lake Padgett residents wanted to hear, but most agreed that something must be done _ and soon.

Residents said they are concerned that the drainage problem could cause declining property values, and that population growth is placing an added burden on roads already well past their prime.

Several feet of standing water on some streets causes serious safety concerns, they said added.

"These streets are an engineering marvel," said C.P. Layman, a retired engineer who has lived in Lake Padgett since 1988. "They're just like washboards. When it rains, there is nowhere for the water to go but my yard."

It's a problem seen in communities throughout Pasco, including Fairway Springs in New Port Richey and Timber Lake Estates, west of Zephyrhills.

Although many of the streets in Lake Padgett are well beyond their normal life expectancy and are maintained by the county, a full-scale resurfacing project could cost millions, Mulieri said.

The county now spends almost $2-million a year repaving roads, but the list of roads to be improved is filled through 1999.

Some residents have agreed to pay a paving assessment to have the county resurface their roads _ at a cost of up to $2,000 a year for each homeowner.

Mulieri said she wants to investigate the possibility of doing such work throughout the county with funds generated by an additional penny gas tax.

The county staff has determined such a tax , would generate at least $1-million a year. The money could be used for drainage improvements throughout Pasco.

Four of the five commissioners would have to approve the tax.

The county also could use the money to buy special equipment to suck sand and debris out of clogged culverts, a contributing factor in much of the county's flooding woes.

But some residents fear a countywide assessment might not benefit Lake Padgett Estates as much as they would like.

They said they want to hear more about an assessment specifically for their community, which would raise money only for road and drainage improvements in Lake Padgett.

Mulieri said she welcomed the suggestion and any others that might solve the flooding problem.

"The water dries up and it seems people forget about the problem," she said. "I hope the ideas don't dry up as well. We need your input."