OKEECHOBEE — Gulf Coast University will conduct a two-year study on the effects of septic tanks in Treasure Island on water quality in Taylor Creek.
The Okeechobee Utility Authority Board reorganized the board, welcomed two members and a new finance director and addressed issues like septic tank pollution and expanded services at the regular March meeting.
John Creasman was named the new chairman of the board. Tommy Clay was elected Vice Chairman.
The utility welcomed new members Michael Myers regular member and Derek Tremain alternate member to represent the county. The board voted to reappoint Harry Moldenhauer as alternate for Glades County.
The utility board approved a study with Florida Gulf Coast University students to look at water quality issues in Taylor Creek and Treasure Island for the next two years. Laboratory analysis will compare the water in Treasure Island which is served by septic tanks versus areas on Taylor Creek on central sewer.
“This would be a valued study to help us document that there is an issue or difference between the two,” Executive Director John Hayford said.
He noted samples taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found higher nutrient levels in Treasure Island when compared to Taylor Creek Isles.
Mr. Hayford has made several lobbying trips to Tallahassee in an effort to gain support for state funding for Pine Ridge Park, Treasure Island sewer and Okee-Tantie infrastructure.
Tabitha Trent was appointed to the OUA employee pension board.
The utility board was scheduled to participate in a workshop to review the inter-local agreement that established the utility in 1995 on March 30.
The board expressed concerns that they could be dissolved in favor of a joint city and county board to run the water and sewer system.
The utility also supported a $51,000 project to place an 8-inch water line that could connect U.S. 441 to Ninth Avenue and serve the health department, local schools and Raulerson Hospital. The line ends currently at the Fred Brown Clinic. The estimated cost is $50,994. The line measures 1,700 feet along segments of Northwest 20th Lane.
The utility could pick up both water and sewer customers.
Resident Frank Irby urged the utility to consider connections with southwest neighborhoods like Oak Lake Estates. He said residents there have trouble using their septic tanks during the wet season.
Attorney Tom Conely said the utility is interested in purchasing the land which houses their waste water treatment plant from the state of Florida. He suggested the state is willing to deal. “If it’s a cash deal it would be a slam dunk.
“It does the state no good to own that piece of land. Do we bite the bullet or do we let it go by?” He said the utility has a 50-year lease with the state that began in 1983.
He said state requirements can be stringent which included annual environmental studies.
Mr. Hayford said the state would renew the lease but the cost is unknown.
“We could start that process to see what the terms would be. We could approach them on the purchase and terms or renew the lease and what are the new terms for renewal,” he said.
Hayford said the utility should do an inventory of property they own and determine the value.
There are two large tracts and a number of other properties owned by the utility.
Hayford said the utility might want to resolve plans to renovate the downtown office building before they sell another property downtown. The utility has applied for an historic preservation grant for the building through the state division of historic resources.
Mr. Clay said the utility should look to renew the lease first and consider all options.
The board also approved payment of $17,155 to Seminole Design & Build for work on the Pine Ridge Park Utility project.
The new finance director at OUA is George Gall. He has experience in the banking industry and in education. He also is a Certified Public Accountant.
He recently worked for the Hernando County School District as chief financial officer.
Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News