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Cost of sewer project jars homeowners

(ran PW, PS editions)

Mary Schamblee can imagine a nice new sewer system to replace her septic tank but can't fathom where she'd come up with the $10,000 to pay for it.

"I work two jobs and my mom lives on a fixed income," Schamblee, 61, told New Port Richey City Council members Tuesday night. After paying for food and prescriptions, there's not much left, Schamblee said. "We want a new sewer . . . but we don't want to pay this kind of money."

Schamblee, who lives with her mother on Morningstar Lane, was one of about 45 residents of the Grand View Park and Park Estates neighborhoods who appeared at City Hall Tuesday night to protest the proposed sewer construction project.

The city wants to build the sewers to satisfy a penalty levied by the Department of Environmental Protection for letting too much copper into Cross Bayou. The $730,387 project would cost each of the affected 82 property owners $8,907.16 plus a $1,284 impact fee to connect to the system.

Tuesday evening, City Council members were planning to discuss whether to go forward with the project, what portion of the assessments they wanted to pick up, and whether to let residents pay the impact fee over time. At press time, members of the public still were telling council members how they felt about the proposed project.

About 25 people from those neighborhoods have requested sewer service from the city over the past five years, according to Tom O'Neill, director of public works. The neighborhoods are adjacent to city limits in unincorporated Pasco County.

The residents are now on septic systems, but are city water customers.

The city had an option of paying the DEP a $36,000 fine for polluting Cross Bayou, but opted to do the project instead.

"It's a lot more expensive for us to do the project, but it's beneficial for the environment, for public health, for the residents and property owners," O'Neill said earlier Tuesday. The city has already spent about $78,000 designing the project and will probably pay some portion of the assessment for the residents as it has in past sewer construction projects.

Kathy Evans drove seven hours from the Atlanta area to protest the project. Evans and her husband don't want to pay the fee on the $52,000 home on Dianne Drive they inherited from her mother-in-law.

Having a sewer system "in all honesty is not a bad idea," Evans said. "There are just a number of people who will lose their houses over this. There's no way that they can afford this."

Evans said she was hoping to sell the house, "but with this assessment on it, we won't be able to for quite a while."

_ Jennifer Goldblatt covers the city of New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is goldblattsptimes.com.

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