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Plan to prevent flooding doesn't please all

It has been five months since heavy rains pushed drainage ponds in Berkeley Manor over their banks and forced four families to evacuate their Rhanbuoy Road homes.

On Tuesday, angry residents were dismayed by what county officials agreed was a modest plan to prevent flooding in the area.

"It's a waste of time," 56-year-old Rilla McGuire of 8131 Rhanbuoy Road said of the county plan. "I don't see that they are doing anything."

At first, County Engineer Charles Mixson presented county commissioners with several options meant to prevent a repeat of August's flooding, described as the kind of event that occurs once every 20 years.

They included:

Connecting three drainage ponds that serve the area and pumping overflow to a new drainage area to be built on the site of an nearby wastewater treatment plant. The improvements are designed to handle a 100-year flood. Price tag: $866,635.

Connecting the drainage ponds, acquiring and demolishing an existing community center, and pumping overflow to a new drainage area there. The improvements are designed to withstand a 25-year flood. Price tag: $925,317.

Purchasing and demolishing 18 residences in the area and combining two of the drainage ponds into one. The improvements are designed to withstand a 100-year flood. Price tag: $4.3-million.

Such expensive alternatives were rejected in favor of enlarging the three drainage areas by between 10 and 20 percent and pumping them as needed. Enlarging the drainage areas will cost about $40,000 and pumping should cost about $20,000 a month, if needed. The plan should handle up to a 15-year flood event.

"It will help," Mixson said of the low budget approach. "But it will not solve the problem."

What is truly needed, Mixson said, is land on which to build more drainage area. To support that approach, in three months Utilities Department Director Kay Adams is to come before the board with a timetable for when the water treatment plant off Forest Oaks Boulevard might be shut down and land made available.

"I want people to understand," County Commissioner Nancy Robinson said, "that the immediate action is not the full action, that future planning is involved."

Yet Adams cautioned that it may be years before the plant can be shut down. It is part of a complex utility system, she said, where any change to one area has consequences elsewhere.

It is "not as simple as pulling a plug," Adams told the board.

Residents had come hoping for much more than a quick fix.

"We are the citizens," said McGuire, who, along with her three children, was forced to leave her home in August. "You are supposed to protect and make it safe for us."

McGuire said repairing structural damage to her home will cost $30,000. She is now trying to decide whether to invest in repairs or try to sell.

"I don't want to fix my home to be flooded again," she told the board.

Although one resident said county workers were kind and helpful during the flooding, Joyce Zimmermacher, 66, said workers had damaged area roads and property.

Zimmermacher, who lives at 8156 Rhanbuoy Road, said she had to pay $100 to replace her sprinkler system.

"I'm not asking for any money back," she said. "I just don't want any more damage done."

While not addressing the specific issue of Zimmermacher's sprinkler system, Mixson said he was aware the area is a mess but did not want to begin any cleanup when there was more work to be done.

Enlargement of the drainage areas is to begin immediately, he said, and the work should be completed in three months.

_ Will Van Sant can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to vansantsptimes.com.

COUNTY COMMISSION ROUNDUP

The County Commission took the following actions Tuesday:

Named the new van service that starts May 1 and will enable people who live within three quarters of a mile of Hernando's public transit service's fixed route to get to and from bus stops. The van service, to be called THE Bus Plus, is meant to assist those who lack the ability to easily access THE Bus, as the public transportation service is called. The four vans, three of which will be in service at any given time, cost about $48,000 each. They are being paid for with federal funds. Operating the service is expected to cost the county $55,000 a year.

Appointed members to the recruitment task force that will help select a replacement for County Administrator Dick Radacky, who retires in June. Those appointed include Sheriff Richard Nugent, Nicholas Morana, John Ehlenbeck, Monroe Smith, Jerome Szymanski, Geraldine Harrington, Jack Bunn, Mark Taylor, Len Tria, Duane Chichester, Dennis Wilfong, Stuart Glover, Hans Froelich, Edward Muse and Chester Peters. Members of the group will sift through applications and make recommendations to the County Commission, which will make the final selection.

Learned that a preliminary settlement between Florida Water Services and the City of Weeki Wachee has been finalized. The formal resolution of the dispute, which involved the city seeking ownership of Florida Water's Spring Hill water and sewer utility, means the county will be able to move forward with issuing $43-million in bonds to cover the cost of its own acquisition of the utility system. Some of the bond proceeds will go toward replenishing $36-million in assets the county liquidated in October when it bought Florida Water's utility.

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