Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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Sewer issues on agenda

ISLAMORADA -- A series of wastewater-related items will highlight the agenda when the Village Council convenes Thursday, Dec. 13.

Leading the way is a proposed amendment to the sewer construction contract between the village and Reynolds Water Islamorada. Should it pass, the change would give the village the option of directly purchasing construction materials in which the cost to a single vendor is $100,000 or more. As the contract is currently written, Reynolds must make those purchases.

Direct purchases would allow the village to take advantage of municipal sales tax exemptions adding up to an estimated $750,000 in savings over the life of the three-year project, Wastewater Administrator Greg Tindle wrote in a pre-meeting report.

The Islamorada sewer system is currently expected to cost of $113 million.

A second proposed amendment to the Reynolds contract will also be up for a vote Thursday. It deals with the individual property connection points for the sewer system, which engineers are selecting based upon overall cost efficiency for the public project.

However, some of the locations that get mapped out won't be the most preferred connection point for the property owners themselves, due usually to the location of their septic tank that is to be decommissioned.

The amendment would create a mechanism under which property owners could ask for their connection point to be moved to a more preferred location, provided they pay for the difference in cost to the village.

The move could still be a net positive for some property owners, depending upon how much it reduces the cost of their lateral sewer connection.

The council is also slated this week to consider two potential contract increases with wastewater rate consultant Tony Hairston of Raftelis Financial Consultants. The first change would increase Raftelis' not-to-exceed contract from $25,000 to $40,000 on work related to developing revenue and expenditures estimates for the utility. The village plans to use the data to help secure a line-of-credit for the sewer project.

The second change would authorize an additional $45,000 for Hairston's firm for further rate study work.

Both changes would require the village to formally waive competitive bidding on the contracted services. If approved, the no-bid awards would be the 11th and 12th the Village Council has approved since the state auditor in March questioned the village's contracting practices, noting that no-bid extensions can result in higher costs for taxpayers.

On yet another wastewater matter, the new council will hear a report from water quality committee Chairman Dave Makepeace related to the committee's push for the creation of a dependent wastewater district within the village.

In a presentation last May before a mainly unenthusiastic board, Makepeace argued that a dependent district would be beneficial because it would provide the village with a body whose only focus is wastewater, thereby freeing the Village Council to focus on other government matters.

A dependent district wouldn't have complete autonomy, Makepeace explained in that presentation. For one, district commissioners would likely be appointed by council members rather than elected. The Village Council would also set the budget for the dependent district.

Still, the district would have real authority, Makepeace said in May, and its responsibilities should include oversight of operations and construction, interactions with Key Largo related to the interlocal sewage treatment between the two towns, customer service and conflict resolution.

Makepeace will make this latest presentation before a board that he hopes will be more sympathetic, with councilmembers Deb Gillis and Mike Forster having replaced Michael Reckwerdt and Don Achenberg.

Finally this week, the council will consider a resolution establishing a five-person ad-hoc citizens' advisory committee charged with making recommendations related to the village's garbage contract. The town's existing contract with Veolia Environmental Services expires next September.

The committee would be tasked with suggesting what types of services should be asked for in next year's bid request, with an emphasis on services that will increase Islamorada's sustainability goals. It would bring its report back to the council in late February.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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