Environmental cleanup under way in Davenport

Source: http://www.newschief.com, January 27, 2012
By: Mary Hurst

An environmental cleanup has started on the old Louis Matthews’ property. The late Matthews had operated a filling station and automotive repair business on the property.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection began the environmental clean-up this week with grant funds. The property is now owned by Bertha Matthews, his widow.

Mayor Peter Rust, 70, said Monday, during the City Commission’s regular meeting, the property used to be a Sinclair gas station when he was 11.

When the federal government’s Superfund funding was cut, the DEP put many of the Superfund sites on a list.

Now it’s Davenport’s turn to get a clean up, City Amy Arrington said.

Hank Harrison told commissioners the gas tanks would have to be removed and that surrounding soil decontaminated.

A series of wells are being installed not only to monitor the contamination but to treat and remove it as well.

Since the work has just begun, they didn’t know how long the process will take.

In other business, the commissioners learned that major repairs had to be done on each of the city’s two fire engines, costing about $15,000.

“If we didn’t do these repairs, we would have no operating fire engines,” Arrington said.

Rust reminisced about the Sinclair station and the fire engines saying that when he was a boy, the city didn’t have to worry about functioning fire engines because fire trucks’s engines were horses.

“They were literally horse-powered,” Commissioner Crystal Williams quipped.

Commissioners also learned that the bid process on the city’s proposed sewer installation and wastewater plant construction project has been once again delayed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“They told us all we had to do was write a letter, which we did,” Arrington said. “But now, they’ve come back with four or five things they want us to do. So, we’re doing them.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had awarded a $2.3 million grant for septic tank abatement, which city officials had assumed over the eight years the project has been in the works would pay the costs of residents’ hooking up to the new sewer collection system.

Late word from the USDA last fall was that the city could not use the money for hookups or to pay impact fees.

In all, the city has obtained a $4.9 million USDA loan, in addition to the grant, of which the city can only use $500,000 for septic tank abatement.

The city is also ready to issue an additional $4.9 million in bonds but won’t until the matter is brought to city residents in a town meeting.

If the city pays the hookup and impact fees, it will have to add the additional $1.5 million to the bond issue.

The commission could decide to hook into the existing Haines City or Polk County systems but would still have to pay to install the sewer system.

If the city did not pay hookup fees, but did pay residents’ impact fees, it would have a $1.1 million deficit, which is why the funds would have to be borrowed.

If residents were to pay for hook-up and impact fees, the city would come out $623 in the black on the project.

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