Phillippi Creek Event Tomorrow May 20th at SGCA

May 19, 2017

May 2017 Project Update

May 12, 2017

 

(You can access this page from the County website here:  Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement Program Area N3)

More N3 Neighbors choose xeriscape

April 15, 2017

The Feb 21st post discussed the many benefits of eliminating or reducing irrigation for turf grass and other “thirsty” yard plantings (scroll down and read the article – there are lots of good information links).  Our water bills will become even more sensitive to irrigation use once our sewer is installed… the sewer component of our bill will be approximately 150% of our water usage.  So, unless you have a separate irrigation meter or a well, water that is used on your lawn will be calculated as though it is treated at the sewer plant!

Here’s what some residents have done…

Take a ride along Tanglewood Dr and see what you think.  Some neighbors have completely replaced all sod grass, while others have replace portions of the lawn.  Another neighbor suggests using GroundCovers instead of grass.  Anything we can do will help the environment… and our wallets!

(These are just homes I’ve found on Tanglewood Dr.  If you know of others in the neighborhood send me photos and I’ll post them here)

What’s the latest on our sewer?

At the March 29 Budget Meeting the County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve $3 million to construct the sewers in our N3 neighborhood.  Staff tells us that the plans are final and all permits are in place.  The next step will be to approve and award the construction contract. The next BCC meeting is April 25th, but the agenda has not been posted. Hopefully our project will be presented at that meeting.

March 29, 2017 Budget Workshop

March 29, 2017

Message from our Neighborhood Committee Chairman

At today’s Budget Workshop the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved a staff recommendation to advance the Septic System Replacement plan in Area N3. This vote was necessary because the county’s capital improvement plan is being reshuffled in order to cope with a shortall in surtax revenue, and some projects are being delayed. Today, our project survived.

I am pleased to report that Commissioner Alan Maio reached out to contact me soon after the commission voted and asked me let everyone know he had received our emails. He said he was glad that we did not overwhelm him with email, and more importantly, that none of us were insulting or rude or threatened to kick him out of office if he did not support our project. So to those of you who took the time to contact Commissioner Maio or any of the other commissioners, thank you for representing our neighborhood well.

I would also like to mention that Commissioner Hines responded promptly to the initial email I sent on behalf of the committee Monday evening, and it was he who introduced the motion today that kept our program in the capital improvement plan.

We owe thanks to all of the commissioners, and specifically to Mr. Hines and Mr. Maio, for voting to keep our sewer project going.

Thanks to those neighbors who took the time to email the commissioners, and thanks for being respectful.

Only one step remains: The county commission will be presented a construction contract for its approval, as soon as April. Then, at long last, we should see digging in the streets. I am sure there will be a lot of information in the coming months.

Best regards,
Peter Gentile
Chairman
N-3 Neighborhood Committee

 

 

worth noting

Charles Hines is the only sitting commissioner that was involved in the months of discussion concerning our project.  He met with us several times during the process and  has been very supportive of our efforts throughout.  Comm. Alan Maio is one of the “new guys”, but seems genuinely interested in connecting with us in the neighborhood.  He is the Commissioner for District 4 (our district).

 

Are we on the chopping block?

March 27, 2017

Current status

The December 20 post discussed the last official update of our sewer project: “The design is 100 percent complete with all required permits.  The project is currently advertised for construction bids.  Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2017 with an approximate 9-month construction duration.”  (Additional information can be found in the PCSSRP Monthly Status Report.)

Budget shortfall

Your N3 Committee has been closely following the progress of our neighborhood sewer project.  At the Feb 17 Budget Workshop county staff presented a Capital Improvement Project Prioritization to the Commissioners and the bottom line is there is not enough money for all projects.  So, which ones to cut?  When the PCSSRP was was discussed, Commissioner Maio asked for a report on “literature that has been provided and the expectations of owners.”

Budget Strategy Workshop March 29

This coming Wednesday Mar 29 the County Commission is holding another Budget Workshop.  The meeting starts at 9:00 AM and is open to the public.  Here is  page 85 from the presentation commissioners will see:

What should concerned residents do?

  • You can email commissioners at commissioners@scgov.net and ask them to approve Option 3.
  • Commissioner Maio asked what our expectations are: Let him know we expect to begin this Spring and be completed by December 2017
  • Attend the meeting on Wednesday and speak during either of the two the Open to the Public segments (click here for meeting agenda).
  • If you can’t attend the meeting you can view it by going to  scgov.net “Televised Meetings.”

Presentation for March 29 Budget Workshop

Here’s the full Presentation Package (Phillippi Creek Overview starts on pg. 71).

3-29 Presentation

 

Help! My septic tank is failing!

March 22, 2017

I have recently heard this from several N3 neighbors.  The next thing I’m asked is “when are we going to get our sewers?”  The answer is SOON (I hope!)  But what to do in the meantime?  Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.  The good news is that you may be able to get some help with your repair bills.

Will the County pay for my septic repairs?

Maybe… here’s a reimbursement schedule from the county website:

You can find the complete document here: Property Owner’s Guide  (scroll down to Credit for Septic system Repair)

Sewer installation… when is SOON?

I have not gotten any updates since the December 20, 2016 post.  Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Go to the PCSSRP Monthly Status Report and scroll down to Area N3. Under “Next Major Milestones” we’re told that construction will likely begin in March 2017.  We know that the construction contract bids are currently being reviewed, so this is probably an accurate forecast.

We’re fast approaching the end of March, so the construction start forecast is probably no longer accurate.  As soon as I get an update I’ll post it here.

 

How Can I Lower My Water Bill?

February 21, 2017

According to the EPA website “…landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use…”,  so it would seem that a good place to start conserving water would be the lawn.  There are numerous articles on the topic; here’s one from the Huffington Post. And this Atlantic article says lawns “have now outlived their purpose.”  So, let’s find out…

How much am I spending to water my lawn?

 

Everyone’s usage is different, but if you use 4,000 gallons per month for lawn irrigation, today you will pay Pluris approximately $26 (you can calculate your personal water usage or use this estimator).  After we are connected to the sewer an additional $30 will be added for a monthly charge of $56 just for the lawn!  One of our N3 neighbors recently took this approach: get rid of the grass.

What is xeriscape?

Xeriscaping is landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for water from irrigation.  This type of landscaping has become popular in drought-stricken western states in the last few years and while we haven’t gotten to a West Coast level of crisis (yet), you can see that water is becoming expensive. So, what to do?

img_0705

Allison Werner, our neighbor at 3340 Tanglewood Dr, recently had her yard professionally xeriscaped (click here): (1) removed all turf grass, (2) put down heavy-duty weed barrier, (3) covered with washed shell, (4) installed low maintenance, drought tolerant plants with drip irrigation. Drive by and take a look… a complete yard make-over may not be for everyone, but anything you can do will save you money on your water bill, not to mention fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, gas and oil for lawnmowers, etc

Pluris south gate water rates

The monthly base charge is $7.18 plus $ per 1000 gallons:

  • 0 to 6,000 – $5.70
  • 6001 to 12,000 – $6.48
  • 12,000 and up – $7.52

( complete schedule of charges: pluris-water-rates)

 

 Informational links

A Conversation with Pluris

February 8, 2017

 

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Joe Kuhns and Garth Armstrong regarding issues associated with our water provider, Pluris Southgate, Inc.  Joe is the Regional Manager and Garth is Project Manager for Pluris USA.  Both of these guys have been with Pluris for a number of years and were able to provide information of value to us as water users.

Selection of meters

The “smart” meter used here in N3 (and the rest of Southgate) is the Sensus iPERL.  While this particular meter is considered to be one of the best in the industry, it has not been without problems. The problem that has been most widely reported is that of leaking seals. Water intrusion into the electronics of the meter causes data corruption and wildly erroneous readings. Sensus has been responsive in addressing this issue and has taken steps to fix the problems as they became known (see Archer, FL).  The folks at Pluris were aware of the situation and took extra care to assure that the meters installed in our system had the problem corrected.

What is AMI?

Automated Meter Infrastructure is a system of (1) “smart” meters, (2) an AMI system server, and (3) data management.  Data (meter readings) is collected at the meter and is transmitted via an RF signal to a communication antennae.  The data is then transmitted to the utility (in our case Pluris) where it is used for, among other things, billing and feedback to us individually via the internet to a personal web portal.

ami

 

New Web Portal

The final phase of the Pluris AMI platform will be the new personal web portal that each customer can access on the Pluris website.  This new feature should be available to us in two to three months and will provide features that include:

  • timely leak alerts
  • monitoring personal water usage
  • setting personal use threshold alerts

(refer to the letter in your last month’s bill or scroll down to the Jan 24th post)

Problems in N3?

Tom Lyons recently reported on four “nightmare” water bills: one was in Charlotte County, one in Sarasota County, and two in the City of Sarasota.  None were in N3 or in Pluris Southgate service territory.  So, did Pluris do a great job of selecting and installing our “smart” meters… or have we just been lucky?  Or maybe some of both. A few readers have reported higher than usual water bills, but none experienced the huge spikes that are typical of malfunctioning electronic meters (there’s a reason your bill may be higher even though you’re using the same amount of water… more on that later).

The true long-term test of these meters is time. Will the redesigned seals still be good in 2 years? 3 years?  We’ll see. The longer they are in service without problems, the more confidence we’ll have. In the meantime it will behove us all to pay attention to our water usage and look for ways to conserve.  The new web portal will be a good tool and there’s lots of information from credible websites. I’ll post what I find on that and some ways we can monitor our individual in-home usage.

 

Sarasota N3 Sewers is now Sarasota N3 Neighborhood

January 29, 2017

More than just sewers

The Sarasota N3 Sewers website was launched in 2012 for a single purpose: to halt the installation of the 216 grinder pumps planned for the N3 area of the  PCSSRP.  That goal has been realized.  In a win-win for the county and N3 residents, a hybrid gravity system using four pumps (instead of 216!) is slated to begin construction in a couple of months.  So, the county sewer issue is settled, but there are changes with our water provider, Pluris Southgate, Inc.

Pluris Southgate, Inc

Pluris began changing out the old mechanical water meters in late 2015 and all of us now have the new “smart” meters (scroll down to the Jan 22 post for more info). The next change from Pluris will be the roll-out of the new Personal Web Portal.  This new feature promises to be a very useful tool for us, the customer, to monitor our individual water usage.  However, the national trend to convert to these electronic “smart” meters has not been without problems: The last article listed only a few of the many reports from around the country. Tom Lyons said he was “flooded” with similar calls.  A few neighbors have written to me that their bills are higher than they used to be (more on that later), but N3 has not experienced the nightmares reported in other neighborhoods that use the same meters. While the 200-plus residents of N3 make up less than five percent of the 4,599 Pluris Southgate customers, Pluris says that “the number of customers questioning accuracy of water use has dropped significantly.” I’m sure that statement is accurate, but it takes only one “black swan” to be a nightmare (see Tom Lyons columns Jan 22 post).

Why the name change?

It looks like this website will be useful for things other than our sewer. There have been articles about the Florida Neighborhoods Conference, Red Bug Slough clean-up, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program, and other topics that don’t involve our sewers.  So,  Sarasota N3 Neighborhood will continue to present information that will hopefully inform our residents.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

“Smart” water meters: Other communities

January 26, 2017

follow-up to the follow-up

I had a telephone conversation Wednesay morning with Beverly Yopp, Director of Pluris Customer Care.  She actully had been helping our neighbor on Tanglewood Drive since November.  She wanted to assure all of us that Pluris will always go the “extra mile” in addressing customer concerns.  We also discussed the potential benefits of the new automated meter infrastructure (“AMI”) and the personal web portal feature that will be available soon.  If there is enough interest in the community Pluris may hold a meeting at the community center to help us set up our personal portals.  Beverly can be reached at byopp@plurisusa.com.

How extensive is the “overbilling” problem?

The last post concluded with the question of what can we do as individuals to verify the accuracy of our smart meter?  First we need to determine just how big the problem is.  If it’s a one-in-a-million “black swan” occurrence how concerned should we be?  How much time, effort, and money should we individually invest on something that may never happen to us?  Let’s take a look…

Other communities experiences

There are dozens of stories of problematic “smart” water meters going back to the mid-2000’s.  Click on the blue links to look at the most recent:

  • Atlanta, GA. –  2011 – “Her bill spiked to more than $1,200 in November, then skyrocketed to $6,879 in December. Her latest bill is down to just $34.” (sound familiar?)  There’s more here and here.

Okay, but that was six years ago. The problems are fixed by now, right?  Apparently not…

and let’s not leave out…

And many, many more…

I have listed just a few of the communities having the same problems. Please do a little “surfing” for yourself and you’ll see just how widespread the problems are.  Here are a few search terms I used for my source documents:

  • smart water meter problems
  • Sensus water meter malfunctions
  • Tinley Park water meter problems
  • Chicago Tribune water meter investigation
  • DeKalb county Georgia water meter problems