Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Air Utility Complaints; Plans to Buy on Hold as County Investigates

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Air Utility Complaints; Plans to Buy on Hold as County Investigates

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

St. Johns County officials' controversial plans to buy a utility servicing the Ponte Vedra Beach area have been put on hold after several Marsh Landing subdivision residents said this week they've had severe sewage problems with the company.

County commissioners were discussing the possible purchase price of St. Johns Services Co. at their regular meeting Wednesday when they were barraged by Marsh Landing residents who said sewer problems have gotten out of control. The company serves about 15,000 customers in the county's northeast.

Ann Crawford, who lives on Marsh Landing Parkway, said her family was forced to temporarily relocate while St. Johns Service Co. officials repair damage after the sewer system backed up into her home in September. The company agreed to repair damage after a protracted insurance claim, she said.

"The utility company is completely aware of the problems on our street and they're trying to sweep it under a rug," Crawford said. "I am here [Wednesday] because I want to put the county on notice."

Crawford's statements, along with those of several of her neighbors, had an impact.

County Administrator Ben Adams told the commission that the county could have moved forward on holding hearings on a potential purchase price of the utility for about $32.5 million, a figure St. Johns Services Co. officials said they would consider.

But Crawford's claims and others who have said they've witnessed manhole covers popping off streets due to backed-up sewers forced the commission to delay plans to hold public hearings until county staff investigates further.

Commission Chairman Bruce Maguire, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach area, admitted he had only recently heard of the sewer problems in Marsh Landing. But some of those residents claimed the sewer issues date back to at least 2001. …

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