St. Petersburg city council members say it's time for property owners to do their part in fixing the city's sewage woes.
After a public hearing on Thursday, Council members approved a measure by a 7 to 1 vote that encourages homeowners to fix leaky pipes on their property.
For residents concerned about high repair bills, the city has introduced a Lateral Line Rehabilitation Rebate project. Under the program residents can receive up to $800 for a sewer line inspection and up to $8,000 to cover repair costs.
Starting January, 1, 2021, if a city worker notices a problem with a private sewer pipe property owners will have six months to have the damage inspected and make necessary reparations or replacements. They can apply for an additional 60-days to make costly repairs.
City workers would be able to refer the property to the Code Enforcement Board, which can assess fines for code-violations if the property owner fails to address maintenance issues.
Property owners have always been responsible for maintenance of the lateral pipes that connect their home to the city’s main sewer line. St. Petersburg public works administrator Claude Tankersley says that the new rule simply codifies property owners’ responsibilities.
“The city is not pushing our responsibility onto the homeowners," he said. "We are still taking responsibility for our portion of the system.”
Tankersley says that the rule is actually beneficial to homeowners, who under the previous code process would have only 30 days to address maintenance issues.
“All we’re doing is saying we recognize that you own this and we expect you to maintain it,” he said. “We’re not going to be going around with a lateral (pipe) police inspecting people’s properties.”
Damaged pipes can be expensive to repair. On average, home and business owners may spend between $3,000 and $7,000, or between $60 to $200 per square foot, to replace the lateral sewage lines that connect their property to the city’s infrastructure.
The pilot program is currently available only to single-family homeowners in select areas of the Maximo Moorings and Greater Pinellas Point neighborhoods, though the city says that homes in other neighborhoods may be eligible for pilot studies and the rebate program in the future.
“There is a perception that the city is going to come on to people's property and do mandatory inspections and force people to do repairs worth thousands of dollars,” said councilwoman Darden Rice at an Oct, 17 City Council meeting, “ and that's simply not the case.”
Homeowners can apply for a rebate through the city's website.