Lift station 87: PR trouble

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 4:00 pm | Updated: 10:45 am, Tue Jul 15, 2014.

SARASOTA, Fla. - With the construction of a new lift station in Sarasota came several delays, cost overruns, and growing frustration from nearby residents.

The city recently hired a private company that feels a public relations expert is needed to keep residents in the loop. And it's the taxpayer who is eating the cost.

Just weeks after city officials raised taxes, we find out what some of that money is being spent on: $125,000 for a PR company, even though the city already has one on staff.

"It is an investment the city must make because it’s facing regulatory action," says Sarasota commissioner Susan Chapman about the construction of Lift Station 87 near Hudson Bayou. It will replace Station 7, which is responsible for processing more than one third of the city's sewage.

Over the years Station 7 and several other ageing sewer pumping stations in the area have failed. At one point, the city was among the top 10 in the state for the number of sewage spills.

"When it has failed, more than a million gallons of sewage ran down our public streets and into the bay."

Under an order by the Department of Environmental Protection agency, the city began the process of upgrading the system. But efforts to replace Lift Station 7 stalled.

The latest vote to approve hiring a new engineering company to finish the project comes with a lot of controversy, because that $1.1 million price tag includes $125,000 to hire a PR company for 6 months of work.

But Chapman stands by her vote. "They’re supposed to set up the website, do all the public notices, there are many aspects to this other than meeting with the public."

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