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New Port Richey okays new sewers

(ran PW, PS editions)

Ninety-three-year-old Isabel Wheeler used two words to describe New Port Richey's plan to build sewers in her neighborhood, and assess her for it.

"It's stupid," said Wheeler, who has lived on Donna Drive for more than three decades. "When you're older, like I am, you go through all of this and you know that it isn't fair, but you have to abide."

Wheeler was one of the few residents of the Grand View Park and Park Estates neighborhoods who stayed at a City Council meeting Tuesday night long enough to hear how much they would have to pay to get their septic tanks replaced by sewers.

The City Council voted 4-0 to pay for 40 percent of the project. Council member Ginny Miller was absent from the meeting.

That means residents will pay a $5,344 assessment, instead of the original $8,907.16 the council was considering. They will be allowed to pay it over 15 years at a 7 percent interest rate. Residents also will have to pay a $1,284 impact fee. They will be allowed to pay it over five years, at the same interest rate as the assessment.

For each of the affected 82 property owners, city officials said that amounts to 15 annual payments ranging from $416.76 to $705.45 in principal and interest payments for the assessment. Payments for the impact fees will range from $256.80 to $310.73, depending on the year. In both cases, required payment amounts vary from year to year.

The council's decision came after a heated meeting where residents aired their gripes and threatened lawsuits. About 45 residents showed up at the meeting: Some of them didn't want sewers at all; others said they wanted the sewers but couldn't afford the nearly $10,000 cost from the assessment and the impact fee.

The city is doing the project to help pay a Department of Environmental Protection penalty for pouring too much copper into Cross Bayou. The neighborhoods are in unincorporated Pasco County, but receive water service from New Port Richey. The city opted to do the project rather than pay DEP a $36,000 fine. The city already has spent $78,000 designing the project, and will pay for $292,154.64 of it.

The sewer project "needed to happen, honestly," said Kathy Evans, who owns a home on Dianne Drive. "It will be tight. But I feel better that they've reduced (the assessment) a little bit."

Council members plan to discuss the assessment project again at meetings scheduled for Aug. 20 and Sept. 3.

_ Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. 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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