KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District is preparing to send 143 residents to county code compliance for failing to connect to its sewer system, according to a clerk's report at the Sept. 11 board meeting.
District Clerk Carol Walker said if the property owners call the district or show some sign of progress in the coming weeks, she will not send the report to the county.
"Once I send them to code compliance, it's out of my hands," she said.
The 143 homes are located in north of the Marvin D. Adams Waterway, commonly known as "the cut." These homeowners have taken no action since being notified two years ago to tie in to the system, she said.
Of the 764 homes in that area, 500 are connected to the sewer and another 90 have told the district they are making an effort to get connected.
Walker explained some homeowners feel if they if they don't sign for the certified letter from the district directing them to connect, they can plead ignorance.
But that's not the case, she says.
"I have met my legal obligation," she said.
Walker keeps a file on each property that includes a copy of all communication from the district. After two years and no response, Walker turns the file over to the county's code compliance office.
Walker said a special magistrate will review each case independently to determine why no action has been taken. The magistrate will likely give violators another deadline to be connected to the sewer. If they fail to meet that deadline, they can be assessed a penalty for every day they are not connected.
If a lot is vacant, the property owner should notify the district. In many instances, that is the case, Walker said.
But for a larger group, connecting to the sewer is too costly to a family's budget. Property owners have to pay out-of-pocket to run lateral lines from their homes to the street, which can run from $2,000 up, depending on the length of pipe required.
Walker said grant money to help offset that cost is available through the district. The seven-page application can be picked up at the district's office or found online at www.klwtd.com.
"People shouldn't be too proud to take this money," Walker said.
During last week's meeting, board members discussed the possibility of loaning homeowners money from the distrct's reserve fund, but decided to take no action for possible legal risks. They tabled the issue until the available grant money dries up.
In other district business, Walker said that none of the board members had asked that the issue of filling the empty board seat be placed on the agenda for the district meeting Tuesday, Sept. 18. Results from that meeting were not available by press time.
On Aug. 8, Susan Hammaker resigned from the board. According the board's governing charter, her vacant seat needs to be filled within 45 days, making the deadline Saturday, Sept. 22.