Clean city water now available to Larsen Acres residents

JEA, City offer special payment programs to assist residents with hook-up fees

Larsen Acres resident Joann Hogan can recall a time 40 years ago when she was a child and the water at her house was pure.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Hogan, who lives on Marguerite Street. “My grandmother’s water was so good when I was young. Forty years ago you could drink it out of the spigot, but that was before the junkyard was there. Then it got rusty and you couldn’t drink it,” she said, referring to a former dumping ground near her neighborhood and Philips Highway.

Tommy Geoghagan of Miranda Contracting digs a trench as to lay water pipes in the Larsen neighborhood.

Tommy Geoghagan of Miranda Contracting digs a trench as to lay water pipes in the Larsen neighborhood.

Hogan, like most of the residents in Larsen Acres, has relied on a well as the only source of water in her home. In July, Builders Care, the charitable arm of the Northeast Florida Builder’s Association, finished a year-long pro bono project of installing water mains along the streets in the Larsen Acres subdivision, making it possible for the residents to finally hook up to city water.

“I’m glad I can get city water. I’m happy about it,” said Hogan, who has yet to hook up to the new lines. Hogan said she has been using a water softener in her home to clean the water, but goes to her son’s home to fill up jugs with city water to drink. Over the years the water from her tap has had a “tremendous amount of rust and oil” in it, ruining her clothes when they go through the washer.

“One time I made a pot of rice and it came out orange,” Hogan said. “I used water out of the spigot. Then I said, ‘Good Lord, that stuff will kill me.’ I’ve been going over to my son’s to get city water in bottles for a couple of years now.”

Like many in her neighborhood, Larsen’s water problem is derived from using wells that have either dried up or become contaminated over the years. Thanks to the generosity of Builders Care members organized by Greg Matovina, of Matovina and Company, a land development firm, and District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who spearheaded a $432,000 city appropriation, Hogan and her neighbors can now hook up to city water if they choose.

Jacksonville Energy Authority had estimated it would cost over $1 million to run water mains in the low-income neighborhood of over 100 homes, while the city figured it would cost at least $800,000, Matovina said. After Matovina read about the issue in the newspaper, he decided to get some friends in the construction industry together to donate materials and the labor needed to install the water mains.

“God compelled me to jump in, to help these people,” Matovina said. “It was like an old-fashioned barn-raising. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when you capitalize on their talents and they have a good heart.”

Northeast Builder’s Association contractors, which donated to the project, include A.J. Johns Inc.; Jax Utilities Management Inc.; Miranda Contracting; Skinner
Horizontal Utilities; J. Lucas and Associates; Adkinson Engineering, and many others.

Now that the lines have been installed, Hogan said she is worried about the expense of hooking up to a new JEA water meter as well as the cost of using city water every month. “I’m wondering about the bill,” she said.

Larry and Sam Skinner of Skinner Horizontal Utilities converse with Jonathon Pendarvis of Miranda Contracting in the Larsen Acres neighborhood.

Larry and Sam Skinner of Skinner Horizontal Utilities converse with Jonathon Pendarvis of Miranda Contracting in the Larsen Acres neighborhood.

After a customer completes a JEA residential application, the amount due for a ¾-inch meter, where a water main is in place but no tap or service line with a meter box exists, is $2,068.83, according to information supplied by the city. A plumbing permit fee of $64 is also required. The monthly charge for water is based on meter size, said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce of San Jose. The cost per month for a ¾-inch meter is $18.90. Water consumption is billed on a tier basis at a cost of 93 cents per thousand gallons for the first 6,000 gallons; $2.60 per thousand gallons for the next 14,000 gallons. And $5.60 for every thousand gallons after the amount consumed hits 20,000 gallons.

Boyce said these are “conservation” rates, which were put in place a few years ago in an effort to encourage customers to save water.

JEA is willing to consider making special payment arrangements for fees due within the Larsen project area on a case-by-case basis, Boyce said.

Applications can be submitted with payment to the JEA Water Counter located at 21 W. Church St. in JEA’s Central Business Office. Applications may be brought in person or mailed to the address at the top of the application.

Larsen Acres residents can also apply to the Housing and Community Development Utility Tap-In (UTIP) Program. This program offers deferred payment loans to assist low-to-moderate income Jacksonville residents with water and sewer line connection fees, associated plumbing costs and septic tank, drain field and well repairs or replacement. To utilize UTIP, applicants must own and occupy their homes, mortgage and property taxes must be current and total household income must not exceed 80 percent of the area median income for Duval County as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Carolyn Herring, who works with UTIP, said only a couple of Larsen area residents have been approved for the loans and that a few more applications are being processed.

For more information regarding UTIP contact Carolyn Herring at (904) 255-8229 or email [email protected]

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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