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County sizing up sewer system options

After weeks of analysis, county staffers found several sewer system options that could cost Chassahowitzka residents less up front.

But county commissioners worried Tuesday that the alternatives would cost more in the long run.

Ultimately, they asked county engineer Al McLaurin to do more extensive research about low-pressure and vacuum sewer systems and report back to the commission in two weeks.

His research will include a visit to Sanford, which currently uses a vacuum sewer system.

The systems would be cheaper to install than a conventional gravity sewer system, McLaurin said, but they could have more long-term maintenance costs.

And in the event of a power outage, he said, there would be "potential for sewage overflows."

The decision has implications beyond the small coastal community.

"What we do here is going to set precedent for what we do in other areas of the county," County Commissioner Joyce Valentino said Tuesday.

McLaurin told commissioners that a conventional gravity sewer system likely would be the most reliable option.

Commissioners also held a public hearing to discuss whether to set an assessment for the wastewater portion of the project. But they had not yet voted on the issue at press time.

For years, county officials have promised residents of the coastal community that new water and sewer systems were on the way. But the project was delayed as they tried to get enough grant money to fund the water portion of the project.

In August, a single high bid of $11.1-million from Danella Construction Corp. sent county officials scrambling for more money.

The bid was so high that officials proposed charging residents assessments of more than $10,000 to pay for it.

In December, McLaurin told commissioners the county should bid the water and sewer portions of the project separately and consider redesigning the sewer portion of the project.

In other news at Tuesday's meeting:

+ Gospel Island resident Hilbert Staton asked commissioners to stand up to the Department of Transportation and ask for the construction of a temporary bridge to the island while crews work to permanently replace the bridge.

"Time is running short," he said.

The cost of providing emergency medical service and other necessary adjustments would nearly equal the cost of building a temporary bridge and put residents' lives at risk, he said.

Commissioners asked County Administrator Richard Wesch to put together an analysis of the additional costs generated by the absence of a temporary bridge.

"Maybe we need to rethink this," Commissioner Jim Fowler said.

+ Economic Development Council executive director Brett Wattles presented the group's quarterly report.

He said he was currently working with three companies considering coming to Citrus County, but he emphasized that confidentiality restrictions prevented him from providing more details to commissioners.

"As soon as they give us permission, we will be back here as soon as we can to make an announcement," he said.

He handed commissioners a letter offering the EDC's involvement in Citrus 20/20's upcoming revisioning project for the county.

"We would be very happy to host the event and to be a real partner in that process," he said.

Wattles' presentation came nearly two weeks after several commissioners criticized the EDC during the County Commission's annual goal-setting session.

He and other EDC board members met privately with individual commissioners before Tuesday's meeting.

But at the County Commission meeting, commissioners did not ask Wattles any questions about the group or its goals.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at or 860-7309.