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Districts seek to shed pricey water systems

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  • | 11:00 p.m. November 18, 2014
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — A minor potable waterline break this summer cost Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 6 residents $43,000.

The price tag from that repair has District 6 officials investigating again the possibility of turning over the potable water system and the miles of water pipes that flow through the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club to Manatee County.

“That repair cost for what’s perceived as a minor repair was eye opening,” said District 6 Vice-Chairman James Hill, at a District 6 agenda review meeting Monday at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. “What it says is we have to consider spending some big bucks to turn the system over.”

Those big bucks would include costs to upgrade the system so it complies with Manatee County potable water system standards.

County officials won’t agree to take the system over until deficiencies are brought up to current standards.

One of those mandates from the county involved locating the pipes throughout various points in the line and placing tracer wires on the outside of the pipes to accurately pinpoint the geographic location of the pipe for future county reference.

The tracer line request, though, would have cost the district more than six figures to perform. District 6 officials backed off the turnover plan about a year ago when they learned about that potential cost.

But when Lakewood Ranch Director of Operations Ryan Heise Hill and District 6 Engineer Mike Kennedy met with county officials last week to discuss the turnover plan, they reported that county officials agreed to potentially erase the costly tracer line project mandate. In its place, county officials said they are open to digging down to locate the pipes in various places to confirm their location for its drawings.

“That’s a much less costly option and it brings this matter back into the forefront for continued discussions,” Hill said.

In the country club, Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 5 turned over its utilities to Manatee County in 2010. Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 2 has turned over some of its sanitary utilities, including some force mains and lift stations, but is still working with the county to turn over its potable water system.

When Schroeder-Manatee Ranch turned over the communities to the districts, it also turned over utilities.
“Operating and maintaining utilities is costly and residents have discovered firsthand that even a minor repair can be costly,” said Heise, who notes that there’s potential liability issues that come along with Manatee County providing potable water to a pipe system it doesn’t control. “In my opinion, it’s better if one entity is maintaining a utility, including both the pipe infrastructure and whatever is in the pipe,” he said.

Heise estimates it will take a year or longer to continue discussions with the county while District 6 officials work toward achieving county standards for the system and deciding how to fund them.

District 6 Chairman Richard Williams, meanwhile, urged the district and Lakewood Ranch officials to realize the system SMR turned over to the districts might have already had some of the deficiencies.

“If we can identify any items that didn’t meet county code when the system was installed, maybe we can raise the question and find funds from the 2005 bonds that paid for the system to fix the problems,” Burstein said.

On Tuesday, District 2 and 6 officials discussed a coordinated effort to begin the process of upgrading each of their potable system for eventual turnover to the county.

“The probability of turning it over to the county right now is perhaps 50%,” Hill said Monday. “We need to make a compelling argument to the county and consider spending big bucks to make it happen.”

This story was amended Nov. 19 to reflect a quote that was made by District 6 Chairman Richard Williams. 

Ranch Landscaping Undertaking
It’s a big job to prepare for the winter landscaping season in Lakewood Ranch.

Residents driving by Town Hall might have seen hundreds of bags of mulch stacked up in the parking lot last week.

The mulch and new annual plantings are being spread and planted throughout the Ranch.

Director of Operations Ryan Heise said the Ranch’s landscaping contractor, Down to Earth, is transitioning from its summer maintenance regimen consisting mainly of mowing and and weed control to a winter regimen of plant and tree trimming, mulching and plantings that align with the holiday season decorations.

Down to Earth Operations Manager Jeremy Martin said his company has 32 employees assigned to the Ranch working 50-hour weeks to plant 12,000 annuals and spread 11 truckloads of mulch and 15 truckloads of pine straw.

Departing board members
Three Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 6 board members said their goodbyes Monday at Town Hall. Chairman Richard Williams, Treasurer Douglas Ferry and Assistant Secretary Robert Burstein received plaques of dedication for their service by Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Executive Director Eva Rey. New board members will be installed and officer designations will be assigned at Thursday’s District 6 meeting.



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