ABOVE: BPAs installed last week downtown on Donnelly Street near 3rd Avenue.
The recent rollout of a new City of Mount Dora requirement has arguably left much to be desired.
The City’s new backflow program improvements for water safety left many commercial property owners scrambling and visitors perplexed at the unsightly, but federally-required, Backflow Prevention Assemblies (BPAs), dotting historic downtown.
In mid-December, tenants of some of the City’s commercial buildings received terse letters stating the property needed to be in compliance with the City’s new BPA program or face their water being shut off. The first problem was the wrong individuals were notified -- tenants aren’t responsible for a building’s compliance. That responsibility falls on the buildings’ owners, and they weren’t notified.
The second and third issues were the curt tone of the letter and an impractical January 12 City-imposed deadline. As a result, affected building owners were left scrambling to comply during the holiday season when the ability to secure competitive bids and schedule installation is predictably compromised. It also didn’t consider any foreseeable hardships it could create for tenants who could face business interruption during their limited peak season. The cost of a BPA installation can range from hundreds to thousands depending on the required configuration.
One downtown landlord expressed resistance to tearing up downtown sidewalks during high season which would be an economic hardship on certain retail tenants and be a hazard to pedestrians.
A miniature jungle gym of BPAs was conspicuously installed on public property at the southeast corner of Donnelly Street and 3rd Avenue (see photo above) last week. The cluster of seven BPAs not only presents potential tripping hazards and liability issues, but is also an eyesore to the City’s quaint downtown. Similar BPA devices will soon appear on the sidewalks in front of Piglet’s Pantry, Becker’s Best Shoes, Let’s Do, Gold in Art, Love Home Harmony and One Flight Up.
The devices are intended to prevent contamination of the City’s water and must be installed above ground level in order to operate properly. To date, the City has not advised of any plans to mitigate the safety and aesthetic issues by covering the devices with a housing of some kind. Mount Dora Buzz presented a few basic questions about the City's program to City Manager Robin Hayes last week, but they remained unanswered.
"If I were to install backflow prevention units in the sidewalk in front of my buildings in the 400 block of Donnelly in the same manner used last week for the building at 3rd and Donnelly, they will surely be tripping hazards as well as unsightly." said Sandi Weld, property manager and leasing agent for CFL Properties that owns commercial buildings in downtown Mount Dora.
"I know they (BPAs) are not designed to be pretty, but in good conscience, I cannot and will not knowingly create an unsafe situation for pedestrians and people legally parking and exiting their vehicles," said Weld. "It might be a City-owned sidewalk, but if these devices are sticking up from pipes in front of our building and we had a hand in the installation, we are both going to be liable when, not if, the injuries start rolling in, not to mention the potential damage to the equipment from car doors, strollers, and vandals."
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