Lakewood Ranch Community Development District supervisors have been talking a lot of ... sewage.
They hope they won’t have to keep doing it.
Lakewood Ranch CDDs 2 and 5 are taking steps to turn over three lift stations, two in CDD 2 and one in CDD 6, to Manatee County.
On March 28 and April 11, Lakewood Ranch operations and Manatee County staff oversaw what’s called a “soft dig,” an inspection of the piping that’s in place for the stations. The digs help verify pipe size, materials and other components of the sanitary system, which must be upgraded to Manatee County’s specifications before turnover can occur.
District Engineer Richard Ellis said the CDDs are working to move forward with the process, but don’t have a specific deadline.
“It’s going to take awhile,” he said. “We’re targeting January 2017. It’s been an ongoing process.”
Town Hall’s operations department kicked off the turnover process about a year ago and has spent much of the time learning what is required to turn the system over to Manatee County successfully.
Manatee County has estimated CDD 6 turnover costs could total up to $100,000. Estimated costs for the CDD 2 turnover are still being determined.
“The intention is to have a design done for the upgrades by an engineer and that would go out to bid,” said Paul Chetlain, the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall operations director. “We hope it would be less, but there’s a number of things that have to get done.”
Although the cost to the district is significant, Chetlain said turning the system over will have its benefits, especially if a pump breaks or there’s a pipe leak. In December 2015, a pump in District 6 failed and had to be replaced, costing the district $12,000, for example.
“At any point in time, you could have failures,” Chetlain said. “Piping can get very costly, tens of thousands of dollars for a single leak. If turned over to Manatee County, all the maintenance would be the county’s. It’s a very long-term savings.”
Amy Pilson, Manatee County’s utilities public affairs liaison, said the turnover process for each system is the same, although each takes a different amount of time and has a different cost.
In every scenario, however, systems must be brought up to current Manatee County standards before the county will take ownership of them.
Most systems already connect to Manatee County’s current sanitary system through a connection, such as a force main. But, Pilson said, that connection does not guarantee a turnover.
Communities must pay for improvements to bring their systems up to current codes, which may be cost prohibitive for them. And, Manatee County only will accept systems that will enhance their own, meaning it will not take responsibility for systems in areas that are undeveloped or would cost too much to maintain, she said.