Less than two weeks ago the Flagler County Commission learned that its administration was ready to bid out a $6.1 million construction contract to build a water plant at Plantation Bay, the community of 2,000 that straddles Flagler and Volusia counties and that’s been plagued by a decrepit water and sewer utility run by the county since 2013.
Tonight, the county commission, at Commissioner Dave Sullivan’s urging, agreed to suspend that plan and consider “other options.”
One of those options is to sell the potable water portion of the utility. “The other option that hasn’t been discussed in the past for a variety of reasons is why not just bring the water in from Bunnell or Palm Coast and forget about trying to fix a bunch of wells that don’t work very well,” Sullivan told the commission. He is also concerned about security at the plant, which he and fellow-Commissioner Joe Mullins consider to be shoddy.
“I’m not saying what to do,” he said, clarifying his motion: he wasn’t asking commissioners to vote for one of those options, but to table the current plan to build a water plant. Meanwhile, he said, “fix the wastewater system as soon as we can.”
But the county has the money to build the new water plant–or was planning to get it through a state loan. It does not have the money to build the sewer plant. When commissioners met two weeks ago, they voted to make it their top priority to ask the Legislature to appropriate $10 million for sewer plant. But that’s mostly a Hail Mary, as the Legislature is not in the habit of appropriating sums that large for relatively small communities, especially as it has already awarded Plantation Bay some grants.
By halting the water plant, Commissioner Greg Hansen thought that might free up $6 million. But it doesn’t, since the money was to have been borrowed–and since the county is already on the hook for over $6 million from its 2013 purchase of the clunky utility from Mori Hosseini, owner of ICI Homes and the developer of Plantation Bay.
Sullivan is also concerned about the split of Plantation bay’s residents between Flagler and Volusia. “Over half the people in Plantation Bay live in Volusia County,” he said. “There’s some aspects of that that need to be looked at.”
Under state law, an unincorporated community that draws water from a municipality’s water system is required to annex into that utility under most circumstances. There are exceptions, including some in Flagler (such as Palm Coast Plantation, which sued Palm Coast and won when Palm Coast pushed annexation).
Sullivan insisted: “I never want to annex Plantation Bay into Palm Coast,” he said, and he would oppose it should it come to that.
“The proper way for us to do this would be through a workshop,” Commission Chairman Don O’Brien, who is not opposed to looking at options to offload the water plant, said.
Jane Gentile-Youd, the Plantation Bay resident whose decibels over the years have at times unilaterally kept the plant’s conditions before commissioners (she ran for the commission last fall and lost to Mullins), agreed with Sullivan but this evening pressed the commission to stop further construction and adopt what she called a “Mori-torium,” a play on words on Hosseini’s first name: she wants a halt to the pending certificates of occupation in Plantation Bay for 53 new homes. “Stop them,” she said, until utility issues are resolved. As for annexing into Palm Coast, she said “I will die first before I will let them touch me or my tax roll.”
Gentile-Youd also said she will be lobbying Volusia County government and Flagler government to annex the Volusia portion of Plantation Bay into Flagler.
Robert Lewis says
Janes comment of dieing before annexation is an exaggeration. Time and time again we have seen Flagler county fail at providing the most basic services for the county. They have been unreliable in delivering clean water, safe environment for employees and low taxes. Yet they have mastered the art of tax and spend. The best thing for the citizens of Plantsriom Bay is to annex into the city. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and have never had an issue with any city service. Sometimes my trash doesn’t get picked up. Everything else is done flawlessly. Trusting the county is like trusting a child not to stick their hand in the cookie jar.
Denise Calderwood says
This is another BIG project that Mr Coffey failed to do all the research on before action was taken and proof that he should have been let go long before he did…. it only took electing Joe Mullins to get it done! Congrats Commissioner Sullivan for looking for other alternatives but don’t forget to check out Ormond Beach utility since it is just up the road and in Volusia County. Wonder how long Craig is going to wait before taking a job with ICI the company that Mori owns just like a previous Flagler County Administrator did… David Haas who is now a Vice President with ICI. Six million dollars of Flagler County taxpayers money given to Mori to buy a worthless system should get a decent salary.
How can the county consider water from the city? It sounds like more of a demand. Pretty gutsy or stupid.
Why is the Commisision screwing around with interviewing interim County Administrators? Why not cut to the chase and hire Kevin Guthrie today. He’s standing by in Pascoe County as the Assistant Administrator waiting for a phone call to get over here. I don’t get what the delay is. Kevin is very qualified, knows the history, and has the relationships within the county to get the stakeholders in a room and solve these problems. Right now the Commission is struggling with far more problems than Plantation Bay. Let’s get Kevin’s expertise over here and get to work.
Concerned Citizen says
So let me get this straight.
Plantation Bay wants to keep their autonomy. Yet they considered importing water (which would have been costly). They don’t want to pay certain taxes but expect certain services.Does Plantation Bay provide their own law Enforcement and Fire Rescue? No the County Does. Do they provide their own sanitation? No someone else does. And who pays for all of this? That’s right it comes out of all of our taxes.
I don’t see how you an insist on keeping your autonomy yet demand other agencies provide you services. It seems that would cause an increases in taxes that others elswhere would pay. And where does one resident get off lobbying for a whole neighborhood? Is she the president?
I lived in a city that had similar problems in Ga. The city failed to provide basic services and ended up being annexed. Our quality of life soon improved after. Annexation isn’t always a bad thing. And why should my taxes increase because people insist on living in private communities?
Sounds like plantation bay needs a community development district so the residents of that specific community can take charge of their infrastructure needs. There are several in the county already. No deaths reported.
Due to years of neglect, this PB problem is complex. The water solution stated in this article likely is short term.. What is not known is the complete plan of which the BOCC is working.
The PB community has rightfully said , enough is enough. The ball is in the County’s court to secure the quality services necessary for residents. It appears the BOCC is trying hard to come up with an expedited, short term solution to mitigate rsks. In parallel , a longer term, capital intensive plan is likely in process.
It may be time to take a step back and let the new regime (CA, BOCC) do their job. Emotional ‘table pounding’ at this point in time is counterproductive. The past leaders are gone.
Great job PB residents, you have got your message across, now it’s time for elected officials to do what is right for their constituents. Let’s give them that chance.
JT hits the nail on the head. There are many plates spinning and wheels turning, in order to arrive at the best and most cost-effective fix for the short term and the long term.