Gulf Breeze approves reclaimed water plan, suspends utility disconnects for April

Posted on April 8, 2020 by Kristin N. Compton

The Gulf Breeze City Council during its April 6 virtual meeting voted unanimously to approve a Memorandum of Agreement with Santa Rosa County (SRC) and Holley-Navarre Water System (HNWS), providing for reclaimed water needs. The council also approved suspending utility disconnects and waiving late fees for the month of April.

After many months of back-and-forth meetings and discussions, SRC and HNWS approved the terms and conditions of a reclaimed water agreement, which was previously altered in October 2019 by the City of Gulf Breeze.

Under the accepted terms, the City will provide reclaim disposal to SRC and HNWS with a guarantee of a minimum of 200,000 gallons per day of reclaimed water during the dry summer months of July, August and September. There is no minimum for the months of October through June. The maximum daily flow of reclaimed water to Gulf Breeze will not surpass 500,000 gallons in all months.

The final Memorandum of Agreement outlines all terms that ensure the important resource to the City’s customers at a low cost. Additionally, there is no anticipated financial impact to the City as funding will be reimbursed at 100 percent by grants associated primarily with the BP oil spill in 2010.     

The agreement encompasses a five-year, three-step plan that begins with a connection between SRC and Eglin, which would allow for the development of a future rapid infiltration basin on federal property north of the Holley community.

Step two involves the intent of the City to connect to HNWS. However, the City is under no obligation to do so within a specific timeframe, or at all.

Furthermore, the City’s connection with HNWS will in no way be impacted by step three of the agreement if SRC’s Navarre Beach utilities should decline to connect to the system, which would requires a nearly $3 million project to upgrade to reclaim standards.

“It took a worldwide pandemic to make this happen,” City Manager Samantha Abell said, engaging in some lighthearted banter regarding the lengthy negotiation process. “[But] we are very pleased to say that the City Council’s consideration is the last signature we need on the dotted line.”

Abell commented that addressing reclaimed water outside of the City’s limits is “the right thing to do to keep rates low and expand [the City’s] service area.”

Also discussed during Monday night’s City Council meeting, which was streamed via YouTube Live to adhere to social distancing recommended by the Governor’s COVID-19 executive order, was cancellation of the April 18 Spring Festival. Abell explained staff’s recommendation to cancel rather than postpone the event since the festival is funded using tourism revenues, which have taken a hit for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council also approved a resolution to suspend utility disconnects and waive late fees for the month of April as well as reconnect fees once the resolution is lifted. Staff encourages customers impacted by COVID-19 to fill out the City’s financial hardship application.

Councilman JB Schluter asked how customers should expect to get caught up after the crisis clears, to which Abell assured him there is presently a policy for payment plans to assist delinquent customers if they are willing to reach out for help.