Senior City Staff Concerned over March 1 Funding Deadline

Posted on February 16, 2024 by Romi White

The City’s current Wastewater Treatment Plant in downtown Milton is located within a flood zone and discharges around 2 million gallons per day of treated effluent directly into Blackwater River. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says that must stop by Dec. 31, 2025.

The clock is running out for the City of Milton, which by March 1 must satisfy multiple requirements in order to receive more than $8.8 million in federal funding for a new wastewater treatment plant project aimed to end the discharge of treated effluent into Blackwater River while adding water and sewer service capacity.

“We’re at the final hour,” City Grants Manager Sandra Woodberry told council members during last night’s special meeting, which was called to consider rehiring retired City Manager Randy Jorgenson on an interim basis, following current City Manager Scott Collins’ resignation, which is effective Feb. 23.

“There couldn’t have been a worse time for Mr. Collins to give his resignation, and he knows that,” Woodberry said. “That hurt me as an employee.”

Collins suggested that instead of replacing the City Manager right away that the city explore using consultants to move along a few key projects, including the treatment plant.

There was also discussion about Collins possibly staying on temporarily as a project manager; however, some council members expressed related concerns.

 “We’ve already been burned by Scott Collins multiple times,” Councilman Gavin Hawthorne said, referencing threats by Collins to withdraw his application during the September 2023 hiring process or otherwise quit the job earlier than expected.  

Three senior city staffers, including Woodberry, Public Works Director Joe Cook and Chief Financial Officer Curtis Krebs voiced support to bring back Jorgenson and questioned financial information Collins provided to the council without their input. 

Ultimately Councilman Jeff’s Snow’s motion to negotiate a contract with Jorgenson to serve as Interim City Manager was approved by a 5-2 vote with Council members Mike Cusack and Marilyn Farrow in opposition.

Meanwhile, the city expects any day to receive the treatment plant’s final project permit, one of the aforementioned requirements ahead of the March 1 deadline.

Additionally, the city has been working with third-party engineers to certify the project can still be completed within costs described in the original grant agreements from 2021-2022 or address how it will fund any overruns.

Woodberry asserted that cost projections exceeding $100 million not only include multiple phases of the treatment plant project but also costs associated with the municipality’s Sundial Utility’s plant, which is located in Bagdad.

Krebs advised that if the city needs more money for the project it can take out $25 million in revenue bonds, paying back $1.5 million per year. “We can take that on,” he said. According to Mayor Heather Lindsay, a special meeting could be called to approve the measure, if needed, ahead of the deadline.