REDINGTON SHORES — The Town Commission got a status report and evaluation of work being done to fix an aging sewer system. After four years of costly repairs, the town is still paying twice what it should for wastewater treatment, Mayor MaryBeth Henderson said at the Feb. 24 commission workshop.

Project manager Butch Lanaville and Mark Gulyas of Miller Pipeline, the contractors who have worked on the sewers for the past four years, gave a presentation at the meeting. They told of the progress made so far to fix the problems with the deteriorating system, which is over 60 years old.

The sewer system consists of the main sewer lines, the smaller lateral lines that run from the houses, condos and businesses to the main lines, and the manholes.

About all the mainline work has been completed, Lanaville said, including the relining of over 16,000 feet of sewer pipe. All of the 29 manholes on Gulf Boulevard have been inspected, and most had water infiltration, “but nothing major,” Lanaville said. About 95 more manholes throughout the town are in need of a full inspection.

Lanaville said about 80 lateral lines have been inspected, and action taken to clean out or rehabilitate as needed. The remaining 300 laterals have yet to be inspected.

Following the sewer status report, Mayor Henderson said she wanted to know why, after four years of work at a considerable cost, the sewer’s major problem, water infiltration, has not been fixed.

“We hired you because we had a problem, excessive sewer treatment costs from the county. For every gallon of (incoming) water used, we are being charged for two gallons of (outgoing) wastewater treatment” because of extra water entering the system from rain and other sources, Henderson said. “We have spent $715,000 and the problem is still the same, if not worse than it ever was.”

Henderson continued, “We need to assess where the problem is, figure it out, and isolate it, instead of just saying, ‘Let’s reline the sewers,’ because that hasn’t done a thing for our bill.” She said the sewer bill is supposed to be about $45,000 per month, based on the amount of incoming water, but the town is paying $82,000 a month, based on outgoing sewer water. “That’s a huge, huge, huge problem,” she said.

Lanaville said the water infiltration issue is being addressed in three phases. The mainline sewers were addressed first, and that’s done, he said. The second priority is the laterals, “and we’ve only gotten a very small part of the laterals addressed,” Lanaville said. Third is the manholes, and only a few of those are done.

Just fixing one of the three parts will not solve the problem, Lanaville said, because water takes the easiest path. When you seal the mainlines, the problem moves to the manholes and laterals. “We have to go step by step,” he said.

“When you seal the entire system up is when you really see a repay on the investment,” said Gulyas, a subcontractor on the project. He noted that most of the laterals are not done yet, and that laterals are “a huge issue.”

Henderson continued to say the main issues with the system need to be isolated so that the town can address the worst areas first.

“I just want to see that cost-benefit to us,” she said, “because after spending $715,000 it’s feels scary that we haven’t made a dent in the problem.”

Commissioner Michael Robinson said he had talked with the county about buying the town’s sewer system, and they said it would first have to be brought up to par at a cost of over $7 million.

Lanaville said that number was “quite high,” and said it was probably based on a worst-case scenario where a lot of excavations were needed.

“Seeing what we’ve seen up to this point, it’s not that bad. To me, it’s strictly an infiltration issue, not a structural issue, which is why you would need to do excavations,” Lanaville said. He estimated the remaining work to be done on the town’s system would be approximately $735,000 to repair the laterals, and $400,000 for the manholes, for a total of around $1.1 million.

Lanaville recommended an inspection be done of the laterals in the entire sewer system, which would cost about $60,000, before moving forward.

“I like what I’ve heard,” said Robinson. “I really like the idea of doing a full assessment of the laterals, and determine where our problems are, before we move forward with just business as usual.”

Commissioner Bill Krajewski, who recently took over responsibility for the sewer system and arranged for the update from the contractor, said he would like to proceed with the I&I (Inflow and Infiltration) inspection of the laterals. He asked Lanaville to present a proposal on it at the March commission meeting.

“We’ll do an I&I inspection and start it ASAP,” Krajewski said. The commission agreed by consensus.

Parks could get new uses

Two of the town’s parks could be getting new features. One would provide greater access to the beach for people with disabilities and the other would offer a place for canines and their owners to recreate together. Commissioner Jennie Blackburn, who is responsible for parks, led the discussion on both.

The creation of a dog park at Del Bello Park was one of Blackburn’s campaign themes when she ran for commissioner last year. Now, she is looking to make that a reality.

The dog park would be in a small fenced section of the park, and would require the moving of only one piece of exercise equipment, Blackburn said. It would have a station with doggie bags, a drinking fountain for dogs and humans and landscaping.

The cost would be between $90,000 and $100,000. The most expensive element by far ($60,000) is a cushioning surface that goes on the ground, which Blackburn is recommending for ease in cleaning.

Krajewski, who had his dog with him on the Zoomcast of the meeting, said he is all for the dog park. “This is long overdue,” he said.

Robinson said he was concerned about the park’s cost, which is not in the budget.

“I would have to know more about how this would be funded before I can support it,” Robinson said.

Fundraising could help, with money donated by citizens, said Krajewski. “There are many dog-lovers out there,” he said, adding, “I’ll write a check.”

Resident Marie Polena said a dog park is a wonderful idea, and she offered to help raise money for it. Jill Acree also wanted to help with fundraising.

Chris Cook, who said she lives in a condo that overlooks Del Bello Park, was concerned about noise and clean-up.

A new resident in the town, Matt Urban, said he had met a lot of people walking their dogs, and strongly supports a dog park. “I think it’s a great idea, for residents to meet other residents and visitors.”

ADA beach access mat

Blackburn’s other park idea was for a Mobi-Mat, which is a surface that allows beach access for people with disabilities, to be placed on the sand out from County Park. It can help not only people in wheelchairs, but also those with knee or hip complications, or anyone who has a problem walking on an uneven surface, Blackburn said. Plus, they are useful for taking children in strollers to the beach.

“The Mobi-Mats make the beach accessible for everybody,” said Blackburn, and are used by many Florida coastal communities, including locally at Treasure Island and Gulfport.

Blackburn said she posted information on the Mobi-Mat on Facebook “and got many clicks.” Beachgoers fully support this, she said.

Former Mayor Jody Armstrong, who said she is associated with the Disability Achievement Center and other disability organizations, strongly supported the Mobi-Mats. She said they are very lightweight, easily rolled up, and can be cleaned with a leaf blower.

“We have the most beautiful beaches. Let’s have access for everyone!” said Armstrong.

Resident Carol Muszik said the Mobi-Mat is an excellent idea. “Our goal should be to put one on all our beach over-walks,” she said.

Henderson said she learned about the Mobi-Mat at a recent Beaches and Shores conference. “It’s a great thing, putting one at County Park,” she said.

Robinson told Blackburn to make sure adequate funding for the Mobi-Mat is in the coming year’s budget. The cost is about $10,000.