Englewood Water District (EWD) Board of Supervisors Meeting, August 2, 2018. Agenda Item: Wholesale Water Rate Increase for Capital Improvements approved at their Janaury 23, 2018 meeting of $1.37 per 1000 gallons.
Attending from Palm island: Adam Beckstead, Jeff Jacobson, Craig Baresel and Lou Ellen Wilson
Presentations were made by Adam Beckstead, Craig Baresel and Lou Ellen Wilson asking the board to reconsider the additional increase of $1.37 per 1000 gallons for Capacity Fees approved at their January 23, 2018 meeting and scheduled to go into effect February 1, 2019. Since this fee is to help fund potential future expansion, primarily it was asked to increase new water connections fees or explore other solutions rather than increasing the bulk rate to all current customers on the island.
The Chair, Taylor Meals stated in the original agreement with Bocilla Utilities and Knights Island Utilities for furnishing bulk water to the Island, a connection fee was not charged to individual customers of these utilities nor were any monies included in the rates agreed upon for future expansion/renovatons. He stated that EWD had no control once the bulk water rate was passed to the utilities. The board hired a consultant who reported the bulk rate increase was the fairest and most feasible solution for the island; therefore, based on this report which was approved by the Board and used for the basis of their decision on 1/23/18, they will NOT reconsider their decision.
Report by Craig Baresel
First, thanks to a lot of long term residents and PIE people for their previous involvement. I can say the more I dig in to items effecting our island the more I find there are many that have spent countless hours attending Charlotte County meetings, who serve on current advisory boards, and who have even traveled to Tallahassee to represent our wonderful island. Thank you!!!
Sewer Update - In a nutshell, a couple years ago the county hired consultants Jones/ Edmunds. They developed a 376 page Sewer Master plan which digs into water quality, wildlife impacts, impact on tourism, comparisons to neighboring areas, cost assessments, and then prioritized.
Our island recently landed in the first 5 years of the 20 year utilities improvement plan. We ended up in the first 5 year of the Master Plan because our score on a mix of: Proximity to water and water tables (score-5), Density of septics per acre (5), Water testing in the general area (5), and Age of current septic systems (4). We were however near the bottom of a dozen priorities in the 5 year primarily because we are not currently connected to county water and are serviced by a private utility.
At a 1/30/2018 nearly 3 hour County Commissioner meeting just on the Septic to Sewer (S2S) subject there was a presentation from the utilities department with an overview, funding requests, and the first projects were voted on.
For now the Commissioners only voted on funding and starting converting S2S in 3 areas (El Jobean East, Crestview Circle, and Ellicott Circle). These three areas both need and want sewer. Their septic systems are failing, they can’t install new ones because of water table changes, law changes, and some folks literally have sewage bubbling up out of the ground. These three areas alone will take an estimated three years to complete. Other projects can be started but due to the $13 mil+ price tags I can tell you the county will be watching these 3 pretty closely. At least right now both the utility department AND the county commissioners said that the 5, 10, and 15 year time frames are probably too aggressive and things just won’t happen that fast. In the big picture even if the 5 year was followed our island would just be starting at the end of the 5 years so actual sewer would be another 2 years past that. They are committed however to keep moving forward as organized and as quickly as possible.
Funding - There are some federal and state grant funds available due to Charlotte County location on water ways. Those funds might cover an estimated 45% to 50%. Consumers will pay the other 50% to 55%. We will pay 2 ways. Right now the report estimates an average of $11,500 cost per residence to run and connect to a new sewer line. The county has different options and has not decided yet but the most likely option is the County would get a long term loan or bond for the S2S fund and then bill the people being connected over time with an appropriate interest rate. The current estimate is $44 per month per household for new connections. Then there is the ongoing additional normal rate for being connected to a sewer estimated at $49 for a total estimate of $93/ mo. This will likely go up the over the next few years. These fees do not include the costs if our current septic systems have to be dug out and landscape replaced etc.
The Wild Card - Knight Island Utilities (Palm Island Resort) The resort is currently under negotiation and has been for nearly 2 years. Many are aware of this but for those that may not be aware the resort has its own water and sewer system. They have not operated under a county permit since 2016. It is a private business and we do not know the exact costs but they are facing large expenditures to keep their system current and get permitted. The County Commissioners have very little interest in buying any private utilities because they have been burned with upgrade costs in ones they bought in the past.
HOWEVER…. As a business it may be cheaper in the long run for the resort to agree to pay for all or a large part of the cost for pumps and connections to the county system rather than to spend money internally on their system, thus the negotiations. IF Knight Island connects to the County it would be at the same pipe location crossing the inter-coastal so then it makes economic sense to make it large enough to accommodate the rest of our island connections which could push our timing forward.
There are a lot of related items. Bocilla water utility is a big one. Typically water and sewer connections go hand and hand. That would bring another set of negotiations into the picture.
As this unfolds we will do our best to stay informed. If anyone wants more information there was a recent e-mail sent to all PIE members which had links to the county website, the master plan, and presentations made. Thanks.
I have included 3 links below for more info on the County Utilities/ Sewer plans.
As requested I have included 3 links below if anyone wants more info on the County Utilities/ Sewer plans. The first link goes to the county utilities page where there is a short video, an executive summary, the full 376 page county master plan, water testing info etc. The second link goes to the January 30 county meeting agenda and includes the presentation that was given to the county commissioners. The 3rd link goes to the closed caption TV filming of the entire presentation meeting so a person could hear the commissioners comments. Bottom line the commissioners approved to proceed with the first two years of the plan which are the 3 items highlighted in the presentation section 3 Septic to Sewer. Finally I have attached a copy of page 52 from the master plan that says that Knight Island Utilities (the resort) is currently under negotiations. If or when they are connected to the county it would most likely effect the timing of connecting the rest of us on the island since the main sewer line which crosses from the mainland to the island would be the same line. Thanks. Craig Baresel