Naples City Council voted "no" Wednesday on a sewer annexation project that would have cost 372 homeowners thousands of dollars to build.
Collier County officials are concerned that the runoff from private septic tanks in the Gulf Acres and Rosemary Heights neighborhoods - which lie just north of the city limits - may be polluting the Gordon River and Gulf of Mexico. Many streets in the neighborhoods have flooding problems during heavy rains. The county would like those homeowners to hook up to the City of Naples stormwater and sewer system.
The multi-million dollar project would have cost each homeowner approximately $20,000, which they could have paid in monthly installments.
"$236 on a fixed income is a lot of money," said Patrick Steffy, who lives on 12th Street North in the Rosemary Heights neighborhood. "My reaction to it was, 'Gee, do I have to move?'"
Jerry Kurtz of Collier County's Stormwater Division told Naples city council members that he believes the septic systems are polluting nearby bodies of water, although testing found no traces of fecal matter from the runoff.
"The neighborhood has a very high water table because of its proximity to the river, the bay and the Gulf," Kurtz said. "That's never going to change."
After hours of discussion, council members said that the cost per homeowner - averaging a couple of hundred dollars every month - was too steep.
"All of a sudden we're holding you (homeowners) accountable for you septic systems, with evidence that really isn't there," said council member Terry Hutchison.
"I'm very relieved," Steffy said. "I'm very encouraged by it. I thought we were goners."
Several homeowners said they would be willing to hook up to the city's sewer system if the county was willing to help out more with funding the project.