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County And Bunnell Score Big Grants For Plantation Bay and Stormwater, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast Do Not

| December 14, 2017

Bunnell County Commissioner John Sowell appeared before the St. Johns River Water Management District Board in Palatka Wednesday to describe the impact a $500,000 grant will have on his city's budget. (© FlaglerLive via SJRWMD)

Bunnell County Commissioner John Sowell appeared before the St. Johns River Water Management District Board in Palatka Wednesday to describe the impact a $500,000 grant will have on his city’s budget. (© FlaglerLive via SJRWMD)

Flagler County and Bunnell landed a pair of substantial grants from the St. Johns River Water Management District on Wednesday to help pay for expensive sewer and stormwater improvements. Flagler Beach and Palm Coast had also applied but fell short.


The Palatka-based management district board—which has no representation from Flagler–voted unanimously to award Flagler County $500,000 for the county’s ongoing, $3.2 million improvements of the Plantation Bay utility, and $462,000 for a water project in Bunnell. Bunnell is not required to match the money. Its project was ranked first in worthiness on a list of seven that were approved, totaling $3.4 million.

The grants are part of the so-called Rural Economic Development Initiative that the management district started in August 2015. Each project must have quantifiable benefits that improve water quality and reduce environmental impact of such things as nitrogen while adding to residents’ clean water supply.

In Bunnell, the money will go toward rehabilitation of the sewer collecting and sanitation system and it will enlarge and replace a storm sewer and culvert. Flood protection is an additional benefit to the project. For Bunnell, the grant is a substantial boost in a very limited budget.

“I just want to thank you for the consideration that you’re giving to our needs,” Bunnell City Commissioner John Sowell told the water management board in person Wednesday. “I can’t begin to tell you how important this money is to our city. It actually represents more than one third of our entire general fund. When you have a town of less than 3,000 people and the needs are always going to be unmet, even if we went to 10 mils on our tax rate we could never meet the needs of our city without assistance from you all—from our county, Craig Coffey and our Chairman Mr. Greg Hansen who are here today as well. We do everything we can to partner up, to find money to make our city better and to also in this case improve our environment and our flood situation in this city, which is actually quite critical.”


“It actually represents more than one third of our entire general fund.”


Hansen spoke to the board immediately after Sowell to proffer the county’s thanks for money that will defray what amounts to the rehabilitation costs of the Plantation Bay utility, which the county and Bunnell jointly bought for $5.5 million from private developer Mori Hosseini a few years ago, before the county took full ownership. The utility serves more than 1,600 customers. It was in severe disrepair. The county has been seeking water management and state dollars since.

“We’re a small county, we need your help, we appreciate your help,” Hansen told the management board. “You’ve helped us greatly after Matthew, Irma, we appreciate that. You do great things, keep it up.”

The Plantation Bay utility is undergoing two separate major revamps: wastewater is one part of it. That will cost $3.8 million. Now that the water management district will underwrite $500,000 of that, “the rest of the money is going to come from a DEP loan,” Coffey said this afternoon, referring to the state Department of Environmental Protection, “and we’re already set up for that, we have all the approvals in place.” In fact, the county ran a legal advertisement for the project in a newspaper on Wednesday. Bids are due back in February, and construction will proceed shortly after that.

Customers won’t see much of an effect from those improvements, at least not directly. The improvements will essentially create a more efficient way of treating wastewater by upgrading the filters and upgrading some of the processes that ensure that recycled water meets the proper standards before it can be reused again. That kind of re-use water is only used on Plantation Bay’s golf courses (there are 45 holes in the development). The plant’s electrical systems will also be improved, as will its reliability.

Where customers will notice a difference is in the other portion of the big revamp of the utility—the portion that sends fresh water to customers’ tap. That $4 million project, Coffey said, “is right behind the wastewater.” Design for the project is all but completed. The county is now in the permitting stage and expects to have secured the permits by the new year.

The county and its legislative delegation secured a $2 million grant through the Department of Environmental Protection. The rest will be borrowed through a local commercial bank.

All those costs—the $3.8 million for the wastewater portion and the $4 million for the potable water—will eventually be assumed by customers within Plantation Bay: county taxpayers are not to see any impact from those costs, Coffey said. “We’re trying to incrementally restore the system with newer processes and equipment, it just takes time,” Coffey said. “There’s a balance between charging the customer and having rates too high. We’re trying to manager all that.”

County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen addressing the water management board. (© FlaglerLive via SJRWMD)

County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen addressing the water management board. (© FlaglerLive via SJRWMD)

Both projects will take 12 to 18 months.

The water management district accepted applications for the grants through mid-October. The projects had to show a documented benefit or improvements to water supply, water quality, natural systems, and flood protection. The projects must be completed by the end of 2020.

Out of 17 applicants, seven were dismissed as ineligible for not meeting the scope of the program. Palm Coast was among those seven. The remaining ten were ranked in order of worthiness, with Bunnell coming in first and Flagler’s PlantatioN Bay project coming in sixth. The cutoff was not so much worthiness as available money: since the total available was $3.4 million, no project beyond that limit could be included.

Flagler Beach’s project ranked ninth.

Applications were scored based on four criteria, including the clarity of the narrative description, goals and measures, the benefit to the water management’s mission, how soon the project could be executed, and how cost-effective it is. Applicants’ past performances were also evaluated. (Flagler County had secured a previous $500,000 grant in 2015 for its Malacompra Road drainage improvements.) Though applicants could have lost points for a history of poor performance–not staying on schedule, not staying within budget and so on—none were actually assessed a deduction.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is a tax-supported entity that regulates water resources in 18 counties, including Flagler. Flagler residents typically pay about $36 a year for a median household with a taxable value of $150,000.

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17 Responses for “County And Bunnell Score Big Grants For Plantation Bay and Stormwater, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast Do Not”

  1. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Thank you Flaglerlive for informing me where my money is going to go. How my fellow Plantation Bay water users put up with paying the entire bill for every decision Flagler County makes,( including the original purchase price at twice the appraised value) – is beyond me.

    We have no vote – the county refuses to form a Water Utility Citizen Board – it is our money yet every decision is put on the ‘Consent Agenda’. Our our district commissioner replies to questions he receives by advising the sender that he will forward their requests to the ‘proper party’
    What we have here in my opinion is an illegally formed ‘Special Taxing District’ – We never voted on the purchase but we are responsible for everything the county does !! The county has an easy way out if we don’t pay our bills since they cannot lien or foreclose on our homes for non payment – Simple – all they have to do is a flip of the meter and take away our water.

    The sad reality is that my neighbors rather pay outrageous bills and just accept this dictatorship but I too must agree – it’s a lot cheaper for us than to take the county to court for spending money that is not rightfully theirs to spend. When a government charges a group of citizens for a cost of services not otherwise available or used by the rest of the constituency that is usually a Special Taxing District which cannot be born without a vote by the registered voters within that proposed service district. That didn’t happen in Plantation Bay. A business deal made with a third party – (Flagler County) without the consent of those whose piggy banks would be broken into…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Greg Hansen ought to be kicking ass for letting Coffey and company let Mori Husanni off the hook with this to begin with. The county shouldn’t even be involved in this issue. They manipulated Bunnell to get them involved using them to get money to lessen the burden. Bunnell didn’t have any place to be involved in this. This is just the type of manipulation that goes on around here and we get stuck with the tab. Greg Hanson and other Commissioner’s need to stop covering up the legend of McLaughlin, Ericksen and the past commissioners. There is a good reason why Revels and Hanns got booted. They never should be elected or appointed to a public position again, and for good reason.

  3. Joan Affatato says:

    The purchase of the Plantation Bay undrinkable water was a deal made by Bunnel and Flagler County Administrator, Craig Coffee. We The People of Plantation Bay Should have been given the right to vote on the water agenda. Morri Housani the developer and owner of all the vacant property owned the water facility. He, as the developer, and the owner of the property should have been held accountable for this broken down water facility. But NO! Flagler County would not think of holding him accountable. Instead they PAID HOUSANI FIVE AND A HALF MILLION +++for our undrinkable water. And to add insult to misery WE THE TAXPAYERS OF PLANTATION BAY ARE Paying for this through our monthly water bills. AND Mori Housani is still obtaining building permits from Flagler County. Something definitely smells here.

  4. palmcoaster says:

    I knew also by then the shameful FCBOCC with Coffey at the helm paid developer Mori Housini 5.5 millions for a non working utility the developer was to have repaired and run or otherwise give it up for free as non working!! Only the FCBOCC makes these deals in favor of developers and against the best interst of the taxpayers while eroding the public trust. Housini still getting building permits but was not forced to repair his utility! And if we complainm now they sue us like done with former SOE Weeks, Denis McDonald and Mark Richter!

  5. John dolan says:

    Coffey and corruption. Not my cup of tea.

  6. Wishful Thinking says:

    According to the Property Appraiser’s record the transfer of property where the decrepit water utility sits, at 1600 S Old Dixie Highway was granted at NO CHARGE not $5.5 million dollars….. What gives guys.
    Commissioners Hansen, Sullivan, O’Brien were not around when this crap was put together – Commission Ericksen was probably kept in the dark. Nate McLaughlin has no idea about much around here even though he has been the commissioner since before, during and after…
    Seems like ‘Coffey hour’ runs all day long at the county…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Bunnell is too stupid to realize they have been played. They had no reason to get involved in this mess. They can’t afford to pay attention let alone fix something.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What interest does the city of Bunnell have in this property that is not in the city limits of Bunnell? It seems to be that the county manipulated and tricked the city of Bunnell to help acquire Grant funds because they knew they screwed up when they took this problem from Husani at the tax payers expense. Those Commissioner and Coffey need to be fired for this outrageous act.

  9. I be Erudite says:

    @Anonymous

    What mess are you referring to? The article is about Bunnell receiving a $462k zero cost share grant and the County receiving an unrelated $500k grant. The entire chain of comments is off point and refers to an old agreement that is ancient history and few people that were involved with the Plantation Bay deal remain in office today. Case in point, you referred to Greg Hansen letting Coffee and Husseini off the hook. Hansen wasn’t even in office then. If you are that ill informed it seems odd you would bother to make a comment at all.

  10. Fernando Melendez says:

    Your 100% correct Special districts are a form of local government created by a local community to meet a specific need. Inadequate tax bases and competing demands for existing taxes make it hard for cities and counties to provide all the services their citizens desire. In this case it sounds very much like a flagrant disregard of the Plantation Bay water users who will put up with paying the entire bill for every decision Flagler County makes, such as the original purchase price at twice the assessment amount. Shameful

  11. Claire Iffacation says:

    Meanwhile, the Mondex floods in the lightest rain storms. Commissioners say theres no money to properly maintain roads and the ditches, drainage culverts are not maintained at all. One commissioner went so far as to claim the roads were designed to do the draining. Obviously the Romans were able to solve these issues over 2000 years ago, but Flagler county cant even make roads that are high enough and ditches deep enough to drain….just keep the tractors digging the roads into canals, and feeding the citizens fluffy excuses.

  12. I be Erudite says:

    @Fernando,

    The water rates for residents of Plantation Bay are no higher than they were when Husseini was in charge of the water. The difference now is the water is no longer yellow.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Claire—They don’t mind collecting the special assessment from us each year that was supposed to be collected to pave all the roads here over a period of time. What is happening to all those millions of dollars that were collected that were collected for a purpose and not being shown to be used for that purpose? Paving the roads here would eliminate a lot of the flooding problems because drains would have to be put in. It would also save us money on repairing our vehicles that get so abused driving on these bumpy roads. I call for an investigation of funds. Commissioner’s will tell you anything you want to hear to keep their jobs….the proof is in the pudding. Nate McLaughlin is our commissioner out here and he does nothing for us. We need a commissioner who cares, understands, and will work for us and we need to remember this next year when District 4 county commissioner seat is up for election. it won’t get any better until we make changes.

  14. I Be Erudite says:

    @Claire, the Mondrx is filled with residents living in trailers that don’t get taxed as real property. There are few homes paying anything significant as far as taxes go and many people with trailers pay taxes on the assessed value of their land only, which is also minimal. What do you expect? Perhaps a special assessment on Mkndex residents for paving the roads would do. It’s a much better solution than asking overtaxed people in the rest of the county to foot the bill. Maybe better yet, gather enough petitions and start your own City. I bet that won’t be too easy to do since people hide out in the Mondex to avoid paying all but the minimum taxes. They don’t want anyone telling them their front yard is no place to store 15 junk cars or a couple of rusted out 20 year old refrigerators. Just saying, you get what you pay for.

  15. Pogo says:

    @I Be Erudite

    Ostentatious pedantry posing as erudition aside, there’s a good deal of truth in your description of Mondrx. It also nicely describes the low life in high places, e.g., governors mansions, state houses, boardrooms, private jets, etc. infested by the Republican party. The main difference between Mondrx and the aforementioned being the price tag. The smell is the same.

  16. I be Erudite says:

    @Pogo,

    My apology for misspelling Mondex. It was due to autocorrect but I should have proofread first. You at least have a great sense of humor!

  17. Pogo says:

    @IBE

    Mondex should really change its name to God’s Fishing Camp and Gun Club.

    Back to politics – Republicans of every price range want civilization – they just object to being civilized – or paying for civilization. Wealthy Republicans urge poor Republicans to be thrifty, loyal and hard working in the wealthy’s sweat shops; believe in God, die quickly when they’re no longer wanted, and look to heaven for their reward. The wealthy ones themselves believe none of that and dedicate themselves to the belief that Kurt Vonnegut summed up so well:

    “…When the United States of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited.

    This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.

    Noah and a few like him perceived that the continent was in fact finite, and that venal office-holders, legislators in particular, could be persuaded to toss up great hunks of it for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as to have them land where Noah and his kind were standing.

    Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

    E pluribus unum is surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been denied the many. An even more instructive motto, in light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters, might be: Grab much too much, or you’ll get nothing at all…”

    -Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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