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HomeUncategorizedCounty administrator outlines legislative agenda, 2019 state funding priorities

County administrator outlines legislative agenda, 2019 state funding priorities

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County Administrator Len Sossamon reminded the board that a Legislative meeting was scheduled for December 3, 2018.  In this meeting, the board presents their requests to the Florida Legislators.   Sossamon reviewed the pending projects with the board, beginning with the airport water reclamation facility expansion.  The completion of this project will allow for the decommissioning of the Osowaw plant.  

According to Sossamon, Utilities Director Gordon Onderdonk will request $5-million from the state, which will be matched by $21-million from the county.  The county match is currently budgeted. 

Onderdonk explained in greater detail, that the airport facility, which currently processes 3.5-million gallons per day to at least 6-million gallons per day, possibly 7-million per day.   The project is currently in the design phase. 

The project will comply with advanced wastewater treatment for nitrogen according to the BMAP (Basin Management Action Plans) priority focus area which was finalized by FDEP this past year.  The budget to adhere to the BMAP is estimated at just under $10-million.  Onderdonk added that they’ve “requested Springs (program) funding for this project as well.”  

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The next project Sossamon mentioned was for the design and construction of the extension of Runway 27 at the Brooksville Tampa Regional Airport (BKV).  Currently just over 7000 feet in length, the proposed construction would lengthen the runway by 9,999 feet, which will result in the runway being just over 8,000 feet long. 

According to Sossamon, the runway is able to support large aircraft, such as 747 or A20s, “However, if you ask any pilot in America if they prefer to land on a 7,000 foot runway versus an 8,000 foot (runway), they’re going to tell you tell you 8,000, just for that ‘cushion of safety’ if nothing else.”  

Sossamon reported that the county would request $5-million from the state, with a county contribution of $1-million. 

Public Works Director spoke about two projects to be considered Legislative Agenda; Waterways multi-use coastal facility and WPA Road Improvements, both due to their propensity for flooding.

The Waterways Multi-use Coastal Facility on Hernando Beach, which maintains the channel markers is also home to other agencies, such as Fish and Wildlife, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and Florida SeaGrant. The building is prone to flooding during storms.  The department will request $500,000 from the state, and match $100,000 to raise the building to remedy the flooding issue. 

WPA Road is subject to flooding, and according to Herring, some parts spent several weeks under water earlier this year due to storm activity.  The Department of Public Works is requesting $1.25 million, with a match of $437,500 to raise WPA road.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes asked Herring where the water was to go if the road is raised.  While the answer will lie in the final design, Herring said that provisions would most likely be made, even if culverts were to be built under the newly-raised road.  He went on to say that his department would be working with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to ensure other properties would not be affected by the project. 

The final topic was Septic-To-Sewer (STS) conversion.

Sossamon introduced the topic, which affects approximately 450 homes in the southeast corner of Highway 19 and SR 50.    

The Utilities department did have a $50-million Springs funding application pending earlier in the year, which was withdrawn when a feasibility study concluded that the county would be unable to pay roughly 18% of the bill, leaving each property owner with a $5000 bill to cover.

Onderdonk said that applying for $13-million in legislative funds will cover about half of the area originally planned for the conversion.  There is not currently a county match budgeted for the conversion, and the state will most likely not solely fund the project.

Sossamon said a Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) could be considered.  The county commonly uses the MSBU to raise funds for road paving and lighting in certain neighborhoods, where the specific community is taxed where the improvements will occur.  

Chairman Steve Champion said of the S2S conversion and it’s funding,  “It sounds like a lot more taxes, and ‘Big Brother’ getting involved again.  Initially when we talked about this, we didn’t like this unfunded mandate, but it’s law now … and it’s going to impact our residents directly, and if we don’t ask for some of this funding, it’s going to go elsewhere.”

During the discussion, figures of a possible MSBU that were mentioned ranged from $5-8,000 over a ten year period.

Sossamon said that specifically, the new law, which takes effect on January 4, 2019, requires nitrogen to be reduced from water that impacts local waterways.  Some studies concluded that septic systems generate higher amounts of nitrogen. 

Onderdonk added that later in the agenda, he would introduce a feasibility study that not only covers S2S, but also nutrient reduction within the wastewater master plan. Titled, “Grant Application to Department of Environmental Protection for Funding of Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Analysis,” the board and Onderdonk discussed the feasibility analysis at length, and during the scheduled agenda time, Onderdonk formally requested the board to approve the submission of an FDEP grant application for funding of the Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Analysis.   The board approved 5-0. 

 Citizens did present for comment, beginning with Marilyn Pearson-Adams, who represented the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce and local realtors.  Pearson-Adams brought handouts for the board, however did not display any for presentation.

Mentioning again that the proposed projects are a matter of state law, Pearson-Adams implored the board to consider the citizens that will be affected by higher taxes to reach for funding mechanisms which will offset these costs the most. 

New regulations are taking effect on the type of septic systems that can be installed on properties within certain environmentally sensitive areas – specifically they must be nitrogen reducing.

Jay Sartor of Cliff’s Septic Services spoke about the differences between active and passive systems.   According to Sartor, there is no established documentation that the passive systems function as designed.  Passive systems will not last forever, and the materials will need to be reclaimed in the future. “This means in 10-15 years … you’re going to go to someone’s house, dig up their front yard, and install another system.” 

Sartor also said that passive systems would need to be inspected to ensure that they are compliant with what’s known as the NSF-245 reduction qualification.
Prominent area resident Jim Kimbrough praised Senator Wilton Simpson for securing funding for projects such as these. 

Bob Eaton with Artistic Homes, and Chairman of the Nature Coast Builders’ Association described all the information as “Very confusing, with a lot of moving parts.  All of it bad.”   Eaton clarified that existing homes do not need to upgrade their septic systems before January 4, 2019, but that new homes must be built in compliance. 

Regarding Jay Sartor’s assessment of passive systems, Eaton said that the size of the system itself will not fit on an average lot in Spring Hill, leaving the best choice being a high-performance system, which comes with a cost increase of $12-15,000.

“People are not going to pay that,” Eaton said, “And it’s going to shut us down.”

All commissioners expressed frustration at the current circumstance;  the state has handed down an unfunded mandate, and citizens who will be required to pay amounts beyond their means face foreclosure.  

Commissioner Allocco suggested that the original amount of homes (2,200) be considered in the funding request, rather than just 450.  The commissioners deliberated about the number of homes and final request from the legislature.  Commissioner John Mitten motioned to stick with the conversion of 450 homes, and asking for $13-million from the state.   “It’s best not to eat the entire elephant in one year,” he said, meaning that the state match could come in much smaller, and the commission will be able to better see what they’ll need to consider in the future.

The motion passed unanimously.

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