Questions Addressed During Utilities Authority Roundtable Discussion

Posted on January 3, 2024 by Romi White

State legislators and water system representatives listen to Milton City Manager Scott Collins during Tuesday night’s roundtable discussion.  Photo by Romi White.

More than 75 people showed up for a roundtable discussion between representatives from a coalition of north Santa Rosa water systems and a trio of state legislators, who explained how a bill aimed to consolidate the utilities would not only increase accountability and capacity but also enable more  resources for infrastructure improvements, including septic-to-sewer conversions.

Currently, the nine entities providing water and/or sewer services in north Santa Rosa County, including the City of Milton and Town of Jay, work independently and without much coordination or oversight. Some of the utilities are facing capacity and infrastructure issues which prevent them from being able to serve some additional customers.

“We don’t want deserts in the county where people won’t be able to get potable water,” stated Broxson.

To remedy the situation, Broxson on October 24 proposed a local bill to create the North Santa Rosa Utilities Authority (NSRUA) to oversee the nine utilities. He received unanimous support from fellow Northwest Florida Delegation members, Rep. Alex Andrade and Rep. Joel Rudman, who represent parts of Santa Rosa County.

Robert Smith, representing Point Baker Water System, serves as spokesman for the coalition and called the bill “bad legislation.”

“Leave us alone and let us continue to operate and serve our customers,” Smith told the delegates.

But that’s not likely to happen, and part of the reason involves Smith’s own water system turning away customers.

“It we don’t have the capacity, they’re just not going to get it,” said Tony Mathis, general manager of Point Baker Water System, explaining that county-issued franchise agreements need updating. Mathis said the county is not doing its job to re-evaluate or modify franchise area boundaries. “Put a boot in their ass,” he said. “It would be an easy thing for the (county commission) to do…It’s ridiculous that you three have to do it.”

Smith also pointed out issues with what he described as a similar utility authority in Escambia County, complaining that its director is paid $200,000 per year.

However, Rep. Andrade pointed out ECUA is different and much larger than NSRUA would be. Additionally, Andrade noted ECUA also provides solid waste services.

Andrade went on to express concerns over existing rates in what he described as a “fractured” system in north Santa Rosa.

Smith made several requests of Broxson, including:

  • amending  the legislation to exclude any developers, homebuilders or relatives of either from serving on the NSRUA board;
  • NSRUA including only those utilities which provide wastewater services;
  • for NSRUA directors not be compensated;
  • for the coalition to be shown a final draft of the legislation before a vote takes place. 

“We’ll consider it and get back to you,” said Broxson, noting that the event was not a delegation hearing but rather a meeting noticed by the City of Milton.

New Milton City Manager Scott Collins also made a ask of the legislators, seeking for them to adjust a date requirement within the bill to accomodate the timing of fiscal year budget cycles.