Water shutdown roils residents

Article Courtesy of Ocala Star Banner

By Bill Thompson

Published January 18, 2014


Lakeview Woods bills itself as a great place to live. But it wasn't so great on Tuesday.

Beginning Tuesday morning, residents of the small eastern Marion County community went without water after the water system was shut down.

After the water came back on Wednesday, the developer and the homeowners were pointing fingers over who's to blame, as the community apparently endured a frustrating skirmish in what is shaping up as a battle for control.

East Marion Sanitary Systems, a utility company based in Flint, Mich., that controls the water and sewer systems inside the subdivision, cut off water to its roughly 100 customers.

Wayne Bryant, the subcontractor who handles the day-to-day operation of the system, said he received a call Tuesday morning indicating that the water would be turned off for repairs.

Bryant said he was not told what repairs were being made but that he was directed to not send any crews to work on the system until further notice.

That notice, he added, came Wednesday morning, and fresh water was again coursing through the pipes without a hitch long after angry residents called every public agency they could think of to complain.

According to Bryant, the calls came from Herb Hein, the subdivision's developer.

Hein, who bought the site in 1995, said repairs were made to the sewer plant late last week, and denied shutting off the water on Tuesday.

"I wasn't aware of any repairs. I didn't want the water off at all," said Hein, noting it would be costly to reboot the system and test to ensure there were no issues with the water quality.

"It's a mess."

While he asserted he didn't know why the water was shut down, he did suggest that some of the homeowners might have been involved.

The utility system has been the target of "sabotage," Hein claimed, by homeowners who are determined to drive him out.

Pumps have been turned off, reducing water pressure, he said. The water chlorinator and the blowers at the sewer plant, which help spawn bacteria to break down the waste, also have been tampered with, Hein added.

He believes some of the residents, who took over the homeowners association from him about five years ago, are responsible, with all the "turmoil" designed to exile him.

"It's awfully puzzling," he said of the utility problems, since the homeowners are not supposed to have access to the site.

"They think because they run the HOA they have the developer's rights, the utility and everything else," Hein said. "But they don't understand there's a difference."

Not surprisingly, Kevin Politte, president of the homeowners association, disagrees.

Politte said the residents do not believe the system needed any legitimate repairs. Many of them watched the water plant throughout the day on Tuesday and no repair crews ever showed.

"We think that it was turned off intentionally, for whatever reason," Politte said.

He declined to say more because of the possible effect on future legal action against Hein.

But he described Hein as "vindictive," given past problems within the community, which he also declined to detail.

Politte added that the residents have struggled to get the developer to maintain an aging water system that has been neglected.

One resident said the lack of water had her concerned for her children.

"It's tough to make baby bottles with no water," said Abby Harris, mother of a 7-month-old and a 4-year-old.

Harris recalled that some residents saw a notice alluding to some repairs being posted at the community's entrance, with a recommendation to boil water after the repairs were finished. But that was late Tuesday afternoon, she said.

"It's just not fair we weren't notified," she said. "If we had been notified, we could've been prepared."

Harris also dismissed the idea a resident was behind the shutdown.

"Somebody authorized the water to be shut off with no warning to the residents," she said. "Someone who lives here wouldn't make themselves go without water for two days."