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Vote may solve water woes

Many Homosassa area residents will be heading back to the polls today, but they aren't picking candidates this time.

Instead, they're deciding whether the boundaries of the Homosassa Special Water District should be expanded.

The 3,132 registered voters who are already customers in the district and 828 voters living in three nearby areas will participate in the vote. The only polling place is the Homosassa Civic Club; voting will take place from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

To increase the size of the district, both the existing customers and the customers in the new area must vote in favor.

The new areas are Halls River Estates, Spring Gardens and a large area surrounding Grover Cleveland Boulevard.

Detailed maps of those areas are available at www.homosassawater.com.

Members of the water district's board say they brought the proposed expansion to a vote because they were hearing from residents in some of the areas complaining that their wells had gone bad and were seeking help from the district.

The expansion would increase the customer base of the overall district and would provide fire suppression and gravity-driven water pressure in areas that need that, according to water board member Jim Bitter.

Some people have questioned the need to expand the district, saying that the final costs are not yet known and that they already get good water from the same aquifer that supplies the water district's customers.

James Collins, who lives in the largest area proposed for expansion, questions why more information wasn't provided to residents sooner and doubts the accuracy of the costs which have been estimated by the district.

"How can they expect anyone to vote without some knowledge of what's going to come out of your pocket?'' he asked.

Those who are in the water district pay a tax rate of 0.6948 mills. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of appraised taxable property value.

For the owner of a $150,000 home who takes the $25,000 homestead exemption, the tax to support the district would be $86.85.

There would be other costs too, including installation of water lines in areas not served with central water now. Collins said contractors have told him that the $20 per foot of line cost estimate suggested by the district is too low. He has sent out fliers and tried to educate people in the areas affected by the vote.

But water board members said that they have sent out information too, have encouraged people to view the board Web site for more details, and even sponsored an open house to provide the details people need to know.

"All we wanted to do is try to do some good for these folks looking forward to the future as well as the present,'' Bitter said.

Water board member Diann Schultz agreed.

"Our job as a board was to present the information, and I think we've done a good job at that,'' she said. "We'll see.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendt@sptimes.com.

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