$2.7 million sewer project added to Glades wish list

MOORE HAVEN — Glades County commissioners finalized their list of requests to the Florida Legislature for the 2019 session on Jan. 8, and there was a prominent, $2.7 million addition to it, recommended by their lobbying firm and enthusiastically endorsed 5-0 by the board.

Tops on the list is a request for $700,000 to construct a Glades County Public Safety Building at Muse, with the county contributing 6.4 percent of the cost, or $47,500, to replace facilities severely damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The money would pay for a 4,500-square-foot facility with two bays for fire trucks and one for an ambulance; kitchen and bath facilities with living quarters for emergency personnel; a sheriff zone office; an E911 (PSAP) backup system that is being required by the state because Glades’ 911 system was inoperable for three days after Irma struck; a generator building; potable and fire water wells and water treatment systems.

Second is support and funding for the Glades County Northeast Section Septic to Sewer Improvements Project, which has become a phased project under the guidance of lobbyist firm CAS Governmental Services. Around $1 million is being sought for the first of four phases.

Next is the added request, for “support in obtaining financial assistance to bring wastewater infrastructure across the Caloosahatchee River up to the Glades County boundary line as outlined in the U.S. 27 Corridor Utility Study by Florida Gulf Coast University.” That study, completed Aug. 27 also through grant money, detailed Glades County’s existing potable water and sanitary sewer infrastructure and laid out a preliminary plan for improvements. It was meant to “guide future infrastructure needs, investment in utility expansion projects and land use planning, which will be closely tied to the timing of ‘catalyst’ projects in the region, such as the Airglades Airport and America’s Gateway Logistics Center.”

They’re calling this project the Glades County U.S. 27 Utility Corridor Infrastructure Project and are seeking $2.7 million for now. Part of it, if they’re successful in getting financing, will be groundbreaking in more ways than one.

The county’s applications to the Florida House and Senate for appropriations say: “Funding is for engineering and construction services to install a force main across the Caloosahatchee River via a trench-less technology (Horizontal Directional Drilling) to connect existing force main at Eighth Street and U.S. 27 to Sportsman’s Village RV Park’s old/failing package plant. Generates potential economic development for Glades County and surrounding areas as cargo distribution route from Airglades Airport follows U.S. 27 north, generating employment opportunities, demands for housing, goods and services.”

According to the applications, the case for the improvements was made several times last year in public forums, at the Nov. 26 meeting of the City of Moore Haven/Glades County Public Works Authority (CCPWA); the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rural Economic Development Initiative 12 County Roundtable gathering July 10, and the Glades County Economic Development Council’s June 27 open house.

Then-County Board Chairman John Ahern commended Dale Milita, president of CAS, and Connie Vanassche, its vice president, for their work on the county’s proposal. He noted that making a connection to Sportsman’s Village would give the county “a customer on that side” of the Caloosahatchee River. “I just want to make sure it suits everybody to add that the way it was given to us,” he said.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long said, “We realize with this kind of money that this is more of a place marker, but if we don’t mark our place for this corridor and development ensues more quickly than we anticipate in Hendry County, somebody else may beat us to the punch. So this is a great opportunity to serve more customers immediately, as well as for the future.”

Mr. Ahern noted that for other future improvements, “they felt like we’ll probably need to look at federal money because we need to go down to the county line with infrastructure.” But, he added, “if we are successful in getting this, (we need to be) prepared to have people hook up, just like they do in the city/county — make it mandatory to do that.”

Commissioner Tim Stanley, who later in the meeting was elected chairman, noted that “in Okeechobee County, they’re having trouble where the board won’t force people to get on, because OUA (the Okeechobee Utility Authority) goes and puts in the sewer lines and maybe one house on the whole street gets on … so if we do this, it would have to be mandatory.”

Mr. Ahern noted that with those new customers being served by the South Shore Water Association, “we’d have to come up with a different collection method to collect revenue, but that would be something to be worked out with South Shore. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but we have to try for it,” he said.

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