Commission roundup: St. Johns County gets state money for new wastewater treatment plant in Ponte Vedra

Big state money is coming to St. Johns County for its Players Club Water Reclamation Facility project. The county’s utility department in August was awarded an allocation of more than $32.6 million by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the purposes of constructing the facility.

 

An initial funding amount of $20 million was made available for the 2018 fiscal year and the remaining $12,614,400 was placed on the waiting list for funding in 2019. County commissioners on Tuesday voted to recognize the $20 million and add it to the Utility System Enterprise Fund budget for 2018.

Meanwhile, through the county’s formal bid process, Wharton Smith Inc., was selected as the lowest, responsive, responsible bidder to perform the work, for $32,778,000, slightly above the amount to come from FDEP’s State Revolving Fund.

The utility department proposed the remaining $12,778,000 needed to award the project, after factoring in the initial $20 million, be allocated on a temporary basis from the Utility System Enterprise Fund reserve balances.

According to the backup, construction costs for the water reclamation facility includes all labor, materials, equipment and incidentals needed to build new facilities and equipment capable of serving as an advanced wastewater treatment facility with a rated capacity of 2.4 million gallons per day on an annual average day basis. Construction will take place on an active wastewater treatment site with the existing operation to be maintained until the commissioning of the new facility.

Bill Young, director of utilities for the county, told commissioners the price came in somewhat higher than anticipated but said he was confident his staff would be able to value-engineer some cost savings. He said the facility would be an “awesome” plant for Ponte Vedra users.

Commissioner Henry Dean, referencing his years of experience with the St. Johns River Water Management District, said the securing of funds reflects the outstanding work of the department, which he said is seen as “one of the best” in the state.

Buc-ee’s next stop

During general public comment, Aaron Enos, a resident of the World Golf Village area, expressed some concerns about the pending arrival of Texas-based (and Texas-sized) gas station/convenience store, Buc-ee’s, but to no avail.

He said he understood the parcel in question is already reserved for that type of intensive commercial use but asked about the possibility of finding more “positive development” for the already busy, and sometimes deadly, interchange.

Dean said he’s received a large number of inquires regarding the proposed Buc-ee’s. He said the reality is there’s no approval that will be coming to the board for approval or disapproval unless, possibly, they apply for any kind of variance.

He also said there will be no semi-trucks, as it’s not a truck stop, but did acknowledge there will be a large number of pumps.

The plan, as previously reported in The Record, is to build a 120-pump gas station and store on 13.71 vacant acres at the southwest quadrant of the International Golf Parkway and I-95.

Other business

During closing comments, County Administrator Michael Wanchick said the county has been working on some potential “fee items” ready to be brought to the board for its consideration. These items include possible fees for use of athletic fields, boat ramps and off-beach parking. He suggested a board workshop on the matter either Dec. 6 or Dec. 12.

In the meantime, new fees for on-beach parking go into effect Dec. 1.

Wanchick also requested reconsideration of the county’s golf course be worked into one of the county’s upcoming agendas for December, if possible. He said he believed the county and a group of people interested in creating a public-private partnership of some kind have reached “a good place.”

He said he even reached out to the PGA Tour to review some of the county’s assumptions, rounds of play and costs of doing business and that as soon as that information comes back, that item would be ready to review.

Speaking of the PGA Tour, Wanchick also announced the county’s recent incentive agreement with the PGA Tour won a Regional Award of Excellence for Economic Development from the Northeast Florida Regional Council.

 

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