MOORE HAVEN — Glades County commissioners pushed forward on two fronts to further septic-to-sewer conversion efforts at their meeting Tuesday morning, April 9.
First they approved a request from the Lakeport Water Association Inc., or LWA — a private, nonprofit corporation that Glades County granted a franchise in 2010 to provide potable water to the community of Lakeport — to expand its services “to include the collection, treatment and distribution of wastewater services within the same territorial area.”
Then they bit the bullet and encumbered $122,333 of their 1-cent sales tax fund to cover Glades County’s half of a nearly quarter-million-dollar overrun in the final contract cost of the $1 million sewer project that is proceeding in Moore Haven proper with grants given to the City County Public Works Authority (CCWPA). The lowest bid on the project exceeded the state’s budget by nearly $245,000, and the CCPWA board accepted it on March 31 and agreed to split the overage with the county.
The PRP Construction Group LLC bid $994,420 on that project, when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had only about $750,000 in its construction budget. It includes sewer line installation on Avenues N, O and S and on Fourth Street in the city. The CCPWA board decided not to back off on road repairs afterward, which make up nearly half of the total cost.
About the Lakeport project, commissioners were less reluctant when they learned the particulars of the LWA’s plan.
"This is essentially the first step in what we hope to be a series of steps to remove septic tanks out of the Lakeport area and get into a central sewer district. There are different ways that we may go; the second step … is to then conduct a feasibility study, and we’ve already retained engineers Craig A. Smith and Associates, who we expect to provide us with those services,” said LWA attorney Steve Ramunni.
He described a couple of different scenarios they might enact: establishing their own system or expanding under their joint agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida (from which they buy water) to include wastewater treatment.
“In fact we’ve already had meetings preliminarily with tribal members on the Brighton Reservation, and they’re very receptive to working out a scenario,” he said. “They happen to be also in the process of expanding their wastewater treatment plant for an expected expansion on the Brighton Reservation of perhaps a hotel and other amenities, so the timing is right. Obviously, also by way of timing, so to speak: As we know, this is a very ripe subject with regards to water quality issues.
“We believe that in the end, we’ll accomplish better water quality in terms of what is considered to be an issue with Lake Okeechobee,” Mr. Ramunni went on, adding that the timing is good “for my client to obtain the necessary funding.”
He said the LWA Inc. already applied for financing of the feasibility study, and said that for the future expansion to wastewater services, there “could be some sort of grant/loan package through the federal government or our state government.”
He stated that they are closely watching efforts in the Legislature this session to establish new ways in which Florida would help finance septic-to-sewer conversion projects statewide, but especially in South Florida due to the much-discussed coastal water-quality issues and the ongoing work on the Herbert Hoover Dike that recently brought President Trump, Florida’s newly elected governor and numerous U.S. representatives, including both senators, to Canal Point for a visit.
“This is completely in line with we’re doing elsewhere already,” said Commissioner John Ahern.
He then moved for the board to approve the LPA request, and Commissioner Donald Strenth, who represents the area, seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor, and County Attorney Richard Pringle told the board, “This is the first stop, and the ordinance will come back to you.”
LWA attorney Ramunni explained that “this gives us the ability to go forward with the feasibility study,” for which they’ve already closed on financing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Chris Felker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.