(ran Beach edition)
St. Petersburg says it will include potential use by Gulfport when it updates its master plan. Gulfport hopes the deal is finalized in time for it to build the pipeline before a grant expires.
Paul Williams cannot remember when the city first asked to join St. Petersburg's reclaimed water system.
Safe to say, the wait has been long and angst-ridden.
"There's been a long relationship and a long negotiation process," said Williams, Gulfport's public services director, who has a folder 2 inches thick with letters on the issue. "I'd say three, four, maybe five years."
The neighbors have been close to an agreement on the $1.5-million project that would funnel reclaimed water to some residential customers in parts of southern Gulfport. Dozens of phone calls have been made and correspondence has been sent, but the would-be deals came and went.
Now, officials from both cities acknowledge that a deal could be imminent that would pipe treated wastewater to about 2,000 people in the Town Shores and the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club condominiums.
St. Petersburg has informed Gulfport that the "potential use" of treated wastewater _ with some restrictions _ will be included in St. Petersburg's reclaimed water master plan update to be completed this month.
"At that point," wrote George Webb, St. Petersburg's public works administrator, "the staff of the cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg will be in a position to finalize discussions and develop an agreement for presentation to our respective city councils."
Williams called the news "a good sign" and hopes for a deal to be struck in September. There may be some snags.
Bill Johnson, St. Petersburg's director of public utilities, said an agreement is possible as long as Gulfport realizes that water may have to be shut off to customers during the spring months because of heavy demand and low supply.
"I just want Gulfport to be fully aware," Johnson said. "There will be potential periods that the system will not have water in it. I just don't want St. Petersburg held accountable for the availability . . . which we're not guaranteeing."
Gulfport understands that water interruptions may happen, but doesn't think service should be halted in Gulfport unless it also is stopped in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg customers currently receive reclaimed water without interruptions.
"All I want is to be treated like any other citizen of St. Petersburg," Williams said. "Gulfport shouldn't be treated as a second-class citizen. We should be treated the same."
The news about a pending agreement has several potential customers in Gulfport holding their breath.
"I wish they would hurry up and get that reclaimed water down here," said Gregg Fata, property manager of Town Shores, 3210 59th St. S.
The residents of the 18 different condominium units want to use the reclaimed water for some 10 acres of grass, trees and flowers. It would be cheaper and less troublesome than using freshwater or the well water the units now use to soak the landscaping, he said.
Reclaimed water is treated wastewater that is suitable for plants but not for drinking.
Gulfport customers would pay extra to receive the water, as users do in St. Petersburg. Exactly how much has not been determined.
The city expects to use up to 300,000 gallons a day and has proposed a rate of 30 cents per 1,000 gallons with St. Petersburg.
Getting an agreement quickly with St. Petersburg is important for Gulfport, which received a $405,000 grant from the Pinellas-Anclote Basin Board two years ago to build the transmission lines that would bring the reclaimed water to town. If a deal is not struck soon, Williams fears the grant could be in jeopardy.
The money must be spent by Sept. 30, 2000.
St. Petersburg has suggested that Gulfport seek an extension from the Basin Board.
Webb told Gulfport that there are several good reasons to allow the city to tap into St. Petersburg's reclaimed water system. But there would be the water restrictions.
St. Petersburg customers, Webb said, would have priority over Gulfport customers. Therefore, he recommended that Gulfport consider building a tank to store water so, during times of short supply, the city would have reclaimed water in reserve for its customers.
"Anybody who signs onto the system must understand it's interruptible," Johnson said. "We'd like to serve Gulfport. But our first priority, and this was established many years ago, has to be the customers in St. Petersburg."