NORTH PORT — Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to fund one of two phases of a possible expansion of city water and wastewater services inside boundaries that include Madagascar, a small neighborhood northeast of city hall.

But those commissioners voted against the second phase of the nearly $600,000 project, instead instructing City Manager Peter Lear to draft guidelines for those potentially impacted by city water and sewer infrastructure but whose homes still have septic waste systems and artesian, spring or well water.

Lear is to detail incentives for those residents eligible for city water and sewer, with payment options, a plan for septic inspections and other issues such as declining to accept city services if a home septic system is operable and safe for the environment.

Lear was not given a timeline on when the list should be available for commission inspection and/or approval.

The City Commissioner Vanessa Carusone said in voting against both funding phases for sewer/water expansion, likely “comes back with useful information so (the city) can look at its priorities, look at our needs and not our wants.”

And those priorities, she and other commissioners insisted, don’t necessarily mean undue financial burdens on homeowners facing city water and sewer hookups, particularly those in neighborhoods of homes in lower value tiers.

Connection costs for hooking a home into a city water/wastewater system can run $15,000-$20,000 per home. But communities such as Cape Coral in Lee County and others in a growing phase will bill homeowners over years.

Still, a second phase of Tuesday’s spending proposal would likely get revisited once Lear details the commission’s wishlist to address the septic issue, Carusone said.

Commissioners moving forward Tuesday on the first phase of the Neighborhood Expansion project agreed to spend about $325,000 with Giffels-Webster Engineering of Englewood to prepare an analysis of three wastewater collection technologies — gravity, vacuum and low-pressure — and to evaluate the costs of building such a system within the City Urban Service Boundary district.

That fits North Port’s strategic planning detailed in a 2018-2020 report to “continue to expand the waste water and water system distribution,” and to “continue the looping of water lines to enhance water flow and quality” in the city, according to language in the report.

North Port has some 45,000 remaining parcels with septic and well services, something environmental advocates hope to lessen in coming decades, as aging systems feed runoff nutrients into rivers, causing algal blooms and other problems.


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