published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Mascotte gets $600K to deal with wastewater
and ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writers
The financially strapped city of Mascotte has landed a nearly $600,000 state grant that will allow it to tap into wastewater treatment facilities in Leesburg and Groveland to help promote growth that has been stunted by septic tanks.
"I wanted to bring Mascotte into the 20th century as far as infrastructure and this will allow us to," Mayor Tony Rosado said, noting that the only homes and businesses in Mascotte that are not on septic tanks use small, standalone package plants. "It will also allow the spurring of economic development down Highway 50."
Ray Sharp, public works director and interim city manager for Leesburg, said Mascotte officials approached Leesburg a few months ago about the possibility of tapping into Leesburg's turnpike wastewater treatment plant. The two cities' interlocal agreement was approved last month by the Leesburg City Commission and the Mascotte City Council.
"We have the capacity," said Sharp, who estimates Leesburg will receive about $215,000 in annual revenues for providing wastewater services to Mascotte.
"It is very unique and rare that you've got interlocal projects of this nature to benefit different cities," Mascotte City Manager Jim Gleason said.
"It's a win, win," Rosado added.
A portion of the nearly $600,000 Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity requires a city match of approximately $150,000.
Currently, Mascotte's lack of a municipal wastewater treatment facility has caused some potential businesses to look elsewhere, Rosado said. In fact, the newest business in town, a Family Dollar store, wanted municipal wastewater but had to install a septic system that can be easily converted to a sewer system if one became available.
Mascotte Councilman Stephen Elmore said all the land along State Road 50 will be more valuable should landowners decide to go with a sewer system, adding that Mascotte could now have similar opportunities to that of Groveland.
"You've seen the economic growth that Groveland has because they have sewer, and they have the same numbers of people going through there as we have here, since we are direct neighbors," Elmore said. " This really opens us up for future opportunities for the city to attract new business. It's a big deal."
Gleason said he is well aware that state and federal officials at any time can crack down on older and aging septic tanks, requiring them to be replaced or done away with altogether.
"When they start to fail, it may be more advantageous fiscally to go with sewer," he said.
Mascotte would prefer to build its own wastewater treatment facility, but that would cost between $7 million and $9 million, and the city of 1,700 homes doesn't have that kind of money.
"That is on top of the $3 million the city of Mascotte already has in debt," Gleason said. "Based on that, I thought it would be to our advantage to reach out to Groveland and Leesburg."
Mascotte has also spoken with Groveland officials, who have not approved a wastewater deal yet but are expected to do so.
Mascotte plans to use the sewer grant to run connection lines along SR 50 to Groveland's treatment facility and along State Road 33 to Leesburg's treatment facility. The point of connection here is just north of The Plantation at Leesburg.
Leesburg's turnpike wastewater treatment facility was constructed in 1999 and it went online at the end of 2000.
"It's purpose was to provide wastewater treatment for what we call our southwest service area, basically everything in the 470, U.S. Highway 27, State Road 33, County Road 48 corridor," Sharp said. "That is our major growth area for the city and wastewater treatment anticipating future development."
Sharp said the facility was permitted in 2000 to have the capacity of 3 million gallons a day.
"Today our average flow is around 1.3 million gallons a day," he said. "When we did the most recent operating permit for that facility, we included in that an upgrade in re-reading of that facility, and so today that facility is permitted for maximum capacity of 4.5 million gallons day, so we have plenty of excess capacity. That plant is ready to serve the city of Leesburg for the foreseeable future. It's unlikely that we will ever exceed the capacity of that plant."
Right now, the main areas that Mascotte is looking to service with municipal wastewater are SR 33 and SR 50.
Sharp said the Leesburg plant could also accept additional flow from Mascotte or if Howey-in-the-Hills wanted wastewater service. Howey is the only other town in the immediate vicinity that doesn't already have municipal wastewater.
"In years past, we have talked with Howey-in-the-Hills and said if they decided to start up a central sewer service system, we indicated our willingness to do the treatment for them at our turnpike facility," Sharp said.
"The advantage for a city or town that doesn't have wastewater treatment today is that they don't have the issue of septic tanks," Sharp said. "In my personal opinion, for a new development in particular, it's preferable to be on a central sewer system than on an individual septic tank.
"And from a developer's point of view, if they are on a central sewer system, they can get a little more density than they could otherwise because the lots do not have to be as big because of the separation of the septic systems of one from the other," Sharp said. "The developer gets a little bit of an advantage and of course from local government perspective, it's potentially a revenue source to help offset costs in the general fund."
While Mascotte would be responsible for hooking up to the wastewater treatment facilities, residents, businesses and developers would end up paying Leesburg and Groveland to dispose of their wastewater and treat it.
Gleason said if the Lake County School Board wants to participate, Mascotte can get Mascotte Elementary School hooked into the sewer line, allowing them to close its package plant currently used to provide services and "get out of the sewer business."
"It just goes to show that by working together, something great like this can happen," Rosado said.