Wedgefield water takeover could take lots of time, money
Orange County takeover of Pluris Holdings, a private utility that pipes drinking water to the Wedgefield community, could take years and cost millions, but customers still hope the county will take control.
Some of those customers who spoke during the Orange commission meeting again Tuesday cited the high cost and poor quality of the water from their taps.
Todd Swingle, deputy director of Orange County utilities, outlined obstacles to a possible buy out, noting that Dallas-based Pluris Holdings doesn't want to sell its 1,800-customer system in east Orange. He said another option of having the county take over regulating authority of Pluris from the Florida Public Service Commission would be complicated and not allow the county any say on the water quality just its cost.
Pluris charges its customers the highest rate of any water provider in Orange County, and some county tests have shown high levels of contaminants in the water.
Swingle was tasked in October with studying the possibility of the county acquiring, retrofitting and operating the utility. If the county opts to buy Pluris, Wedgefield customers in east Orange will be taxed to foot the bill. Yet about 350 property-owners have signed a petition asking the county to move forward on a buy-out.
Natalie Harris, a community activist, said she viewed the commission's cautious stand Tuesday as progress. "A year ago, everyone was saying, 'Your water's fine,' " she said. "Now, they're listening to us and wanting answers to the questions we've been asking."