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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Leaky P.R. water system to get new pipelines

PORT RICHEY - After a series of pipeline breaks in recent months, Port Richey officials took the first step this week to upgrade the city’s aging utility network by choosing a company to install new water mains. “They’ve patched the system to the point there’s no place (left) to patch,” Councilman Terrence Rowe said Tuesday. “This is time and money,” Councilwoman Nancy Britton added, referring to the frequent repairs required in past months. The improvements are “near and dear to the hearts” of many residents, Mayor Eloise Taylor said. Numerous interruptions in water service and boil-water notices have taken place of late. The latest disruption Feb. 5 left Candlelight subdivision residents high and dry for a time.
The city will hire Augustine Construction for $359,497.50 to install the water mains and piping. The Tarpon Springs-based firm submitted the lowest of five bids at the March 22 opening. The city has set aside enough money in its current budget to pay for the project, City Manager Tom O’Neill said. Augustine has “satisfactorily completed” other jobs for the city, O’Neill said. Once the city gives a notice to proceed, the contractor will have 120 days to complete the work. The project calls for 5,320 lineal feet of new pipe to “replace existing pipe in the ground that is at the end of its serviceable life and causing water quality issues in the area,” O’Neill wrote in a March 25 memo. The contractor will use PVC or high-density polyethylene pipelines in diameters of 2 to 6 inches. The city asked for additional fire hydrants, as well, as part of the project. The project encompasses much of the city west of U.S. 19, plus parts of streets east of U.S. 19, such as Washington Street, Siesta Lane and Sun-Glo Avenue. O’Neill said residents will not pay any additional fees for the improvements. Britton had inquired if customers would face connection fees. The city, however, is reviewing possible water and sewer rate hikes that could start later this year, if approved City officials believe the utility needs modernization. Some parts for the system are no longer made. Sections of the network date back to the 1920s. A rate study by Burton and Associates recommends annual 3.5 percent increases in bills for the next five years. The extra revenue from rate increases would help pay for construction projects, O’Neill said in February. Plus the utility’s reserve fund has dwindled, O’Neill said. “It simply is inadequate to cover any catastrophic failure” of pipelines, lift stations or treatment facilities. Subsidies from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency have propped up the utility budget. “Ultimately we want to wean ourselves off CRA funding” for expenses, O’Neill said. CRA funding should be restricted to redevelopment, he thinks.
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