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bay this year, the dream is close to becoming a reality, thanks to a green light given by the City Commission on Monday, Feb. 3. The reality will be the culmination of miles of digging, millions of dollars spent on engi- neering and multiple city votes cast on bond issues, ordinances, rates and other necessary minutia. But oddly, during the Feb. 3 meeting, not a single city commissioner seemed to rec- ognize the historic nature of the unanimous vote marking more than a century of munici- pal cleanup. What is this final project? It is a hole in the ground into which the city will pump excess treated wastewater and brine from the munic- ipal reverse osmosis drinking water plant. The hole is there, east of Osprey Avenue and north of 12th Street. The Feb. 3 vote autho- rizes a $3.9 million contract to build the pipes, pumps and ditches necessary to connect the treatment plant with the 1,400-foot-deep well that will accept the brine and excess treated wastewater. THE LONG STRUGGLE In 1911, the citizens of Sarasota grew tired of the city's stench. A $20,000 bond issue was proposed to build a water and sewer sys- tem. "It was a no-quarter fight between the do-nothing element and the men who were determined to make Sarasota a modern town. The fight was bitter," wrote Karl Grissmer in his 1945 book, The Story of Sarasota. Only men could vote in those days, and the vote was close: 57 in favor of the bond issue; 35 opposed. By the end of the year, the down- town and nearby residential area had both water and sewer service. Instead of sewage running in the streets, it was piped 400 feet out into Sarasota Bay. The following year, another bond issue was proposed to extend the system, and that was approved by a margin of 10-to-one. "Pouring the town's sewage into the bay polluted the once crystal clear waters and was the direct cause of one of Sarasota's most acute civic headaches in years to come," wrote Grissmer. As the decades reeled by, voters continued to support the engineering and construction necessary to reduce dumping into the bay. One of the first duties of Sarasota's nearly leg- endary city manager, Ken Thompson, was a 1951 expansion of the sewers to serve 4,000 homes. Another Thompson-era project came in 1966, when the Verna freshwater well field came Finding better ways to handle water and sewer issues long has been the focus of City of Sarasota leaders. Photo by Norman Schimmel Sarasota News Leader February 7, 2014 Page 51

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