**Minutes from our Business Meeting February 4th
From Dawn Bokar:
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by President Richard Leydon at 5:03 PM at the Placida Beach clubhouse.
Board members present were Richard Leydon, Rhonda Olson (phone) Paul Holmes, Deric Flom, Roy Petteway Barb Dwyer, Joe Bokar and Laurie Tremblay (phone).
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Minutes of the November 16, 2020 minutes were approved via email previously.
Paul Holmes reported that the bank account balance is $22,500.
Richard Leydon reported that the path in front of the A-Frame has been filled with additional rock, the project completed, and should be under the $5000 budget. Cost to the LGPOA was $2800. Richard led discussion on the northern hole which is on private property and questioned whether the new owner may pay to fill it. It was decided that the next hole worked on will be on the area of Alborado and Privateer.
Dawn Bokar updated the board on the membership drive. She asked the Board members to review and approve or suggest changes to the membership letter, informed them that the tax roll had been pulled, the cost of the mailing per piece will be $1.05 + postage. Postage will be less this year with the mailing house now having presorted first class, reducing the rate to between .40 and .47. The packets will be going out the last week of February.
Richard Leydon thanked everyone for their hard work getting up to speed on the sewer project and helping to educate islanders when possible.
BARB DWYER AND PAUL HOLMES
Meeting with Charlotte County Commissioner Truex & CC Utilities Director Rudy
Barb Dwyer & Paul Holmes shared the info they learned at a meeting with CC leadership & 16 other homeowners from Cape Haze, Don Pedro & Knight Island. The discussion began with an explanation by scientists from the University of Florida as to why the sewers are needed. Porous, sandy soil lacking in organic matter allows septic system effluent to enter the groundwater too quickly. Without adequate time to percolate, the nutrients in the groundwater flow into the nearby waterways, contributing to algae growth & red tide blooms. A discussion also ensued about the nutrient levels in reclaimed water that is used for irrigation which is pumped back into the ground if it is not used. The group consensus was there is a need for sewers. The concerns center around EU’s ability to do the job.
Utilities Director Rudy indicated CC can’t touch this project until 2029 due to budget constraints. CC has had to bail out other small utilities in the area that have failed. EU was given the agreement with CC because they asked for it first. First come, first served. There was no financial review or technical evaluation of EU done by CC. The total cost of the project for Cape Haze, Don Pedro/Knight Island and LGI is thought to be $22-25 million based on data from the CC 2017 Sewer Master Plan, adjusted for inflation. There was a lot of push in the room to have CC do the project despite the delay in timeframe. The majority of concerns centered around the EU financials and their lack of experience with a project of this magnitude. CC indicated they would not step in unless the PSC denied the permit. Rudy/Truex were questioned whether CC would file an Amicus Brief (friend of the court, not a litigant) with the PSC to be able to sit in on the discussions.
Commissioner Truex took notes of all the concerns discussed & indicated he needed more information. He agreed to contact the FL State Representatives about an increase in the budget allocation. He said he would contact the legal department about the Amicus Brief. He would also check into EU’s financials. It was felt by both Barb & Paul that Truex was genuinely interested in the concerns of the group. He offered to share any additional information garnered.
Richard Leydon then asked each Board member for their thoughts on the project.
JOE BOKAR – I agree with surveying the islanders and believe it’s inevitable that we will be getting sewers and our main goal should be for homeowners to not overpay. I feel that the best way to avoid that would be for the county to do the project but agree with Rhonda that we should seriously look at doing forming our own utility with county oversight. We should engage Volpe, and keep doing our due diligence, making sure as many islanders, POA, and lawyers are kept in the loop on every detail so we can respond proactively.
BARB DWYER – I agree that there is a need for sewers on LGI based on the scientific data & the changes I have seen in the water quality over the 5 years I have lived on the island. I am concerned with EU doing the project based on the history of LGWU. I have gone back to research the water data filed with the PSC. There were numerous complaints & concerns raised, but there doesn’t appear to be any follow through showing any kind of resolution with those complaints regarding installation & service. The dealings with LGWU when HBBC needed to hook up the fire suppression system was not good. No one from LGWU was available to address two major water leaks at HBBC in the past 6 months. Boil water notices are not sent out on a timely basis. A leak involving water is not good, but an untended leak with a sewer system could be a major environmental issue.
I don’t know if we have any control in who gets awarded this contract to install sewers on LGI. The overall cost of installation as well as the operation & maintenance costs must be reasonable. Higher installation costs of a system with lower operation & maintenance costs which might be recouped with grant money could be a better option for residents than a system with lower initial installation costs but higher ongoing operation & maintenance costs. It is my goal that the installation of the sewer system be done properly from the start, with continuing oversight throughout the project.
DERIC FLOM– I feel it’s important to get all the information and facts out to membership and let the island owners decide from the options presented.
PAUL HOLMES – I don’t care if the county subcontracts to Jack as long as they have (a) final responsibility and (b) can stretch payments over 20 years. The statement that the county would cost “at least 1/3 more” is not substantiated and does not include the approximately $2 million as profit that would be paid to Jack.
RICHARD LEYDON – I feel that we need to step back and look at the total picture. The county and state have identified Cape Haze, LGI and Palm Island as areas of concern in their Sewer Master Plan. LGI has been in the five-year plan for several years. They have seized upon an opportunity with EU to move this project forward. EU is moving forward. The county has been asked repeatedly to step in an take the project over. They have declined each time. EU continues to the next stage of the permitting process. Unless the PSC finds fault with their application, they will take the next steps to getting the project built. Other parties have decided to fight the project. That may ultimately impact us as well. Only time will tell.
What we do know…The DEP is taking over control of septic systems from the counties. We have already been identified as an area of concern and it would be very easy for the DEP to start inspecting existing septic systems. If they do, and if you fail, they will shut the property down until the issues are resolved. To replace a septic system on the island could easily cost a homeowner thirty to forty thousand ($30,000.00-$40,000.00) Dollars. Each home has already agreed to hooking up to a sewer collection system when the initial septic permit was applied for. This means that if you have to install a new system you will then have to hook up to a collection system within a year of it passing your property. In the worst-case scenario, you would have to pay twice. First to rebuild your system and second to hook up to the new collections system.
We need to stay involved and monitor the next steps for system design and costs. I believe the sooner this happens the better. Better for the environment and better for the homeowners. Nobody wants to pay more to maintain their home, but when it ultimately makes your home more saleable while also protecting the precious environment that surrounds us, it is hard to argue with.
RHONDA OLSON – I believe the job of the board is to educate membership with facts. When we discuss the topic is when we get to express our concerns and debate our findings. Here are my opinions on the research we’ve accumulated.
My husband and I installed residential septics, community septic systems, waterlines for the city, etc. for half of our lives. I understand sewer projects, county involvement and a bit about business.
The bifurcation of rates was turned down by PSC (Public Service Commission). Excellent news! Now EU will provide PSC projections of costs for installation and maintenance. EU estimates delivery to PSC in 90 days. Once EU provides the information to PSC, they will give all interested parties notice and share the information.
Since PSC turned down EU’s request to bifurcate the rates on January 5th Cape Haze and PIE filed a petition for arbitration. We were advised to file also by an attorney (an islander) to have our “foot in the door.” He said if we weren’t part of the administrative hearing we may not be considered in the outcome. The LGPOA decided to file our own petition to participate, saving attorney fees. We now will be considered in the results of the hearing. Other board members feel it’s important to hire an attorney to protect the interest of islanders, but at this time, I don’t see the point. We will be notified by PSC in every step of this process. OPC (Office of Public Counsel) and PSC both have attentive attorneys, accountants and engineers that are ready to work for and with us. They have been very helpful thus far. Therefore, I believe using LGPOA membership dues to hire an attorney would be a waste.
The LGPOA board has discussed sending a survey to membership. I spoke to PIE about their thoughts on the matter and they felt the results wouldn’t reflect the majority of their population so they decided it wouldn’t be a fair survey. Much like the LGPOA, PIE is voluntary. We do not represent all homeowners, only those who choose to join are members. Another point she made was if people aren’t educated about the choices, it’s likely their answers will be an unfair representation. I agree that that’s the case on LGI as well and a survey wouldn’t give us a true reflection of our island.
Regarding the meeting with Truex earlier this month, the gentleman that organized the meeting informed me he thought Truex was “being a politician” and telling the people attending what they wanted to hear. He is convinced that CC is not going to step in or take over the project. CC has agreed the project will use their treatment plant, but that’s as far as they are willing to help at this time.
Since I believe fighting the project EU is applying for isn’t good use of my time, my focus from here forward is to help research and develop a utility district for all involved, outside of the LGPOA. A utility district is a political subdivision of the State of Florida to provide water, sewage, drainage, and other utility-related services. We would essentially buy the project from EU and over time phase in the water utilities as well. This reduces individual homeowner costs for many, many reasons. EU supports this idea and is taking a member of our group with them to meet with our state representative later this month. They will explore options and gather information. We had planned to send out a survey to determine homeowner interest, but we determined it’s too early at this time. Instead, we are forming a research committee of experienced people to analyze the project and evaluate savings, etc. When I reached out to the attorney (islander) mentioned above to ask him if his firm could represent such a project he stated, “I agree that there is support for this concept (utility district). There should be more support if folks knew the low chance of success in stopping the Environmental Utilities application.” He also confirmed his firm is willing to guide and help us through the project. We are interviewing several attorneys for representation. I’ll keep you posted, with board approval, in the upcoming Coconut Telegraphs.
ROY PETTEWAY – I’ve stated numerous times, I probably feel like the residents in the area, I feel like sewers would probably be a good thing in the future. I do not think EU has either the experience, nor the responsibility to build and maintain a project of this scope and size, based on Mr. Boyer’s prior actions and inactions with the water project on the island. I’d like to see the county oversee this, even if we must wait a few years to do it, it would give property owners the opportunity to pay over years, and there would be professional oversight, as well as proper easements and right of ways purchased. In the past few days, I’ve received numerous emails from people who are against EU handling the project but are in more or less support of a sewer project. One statement in the letter that was made is that the county would cost at least 1/3 more. I’d like to see data on that statement, or is that just a personal estimate?
LAURIE TREMBLAY – In order to be prepared, we should decide on the type of sewer system for the island. Low maintenance and low operating costs are important. Grants and other aid should be investigated for the initial installation of the system. If the county will not undertake the installation of a sewer system and awards it to a private utility, then EU or any other private utility should be closely supervised for quality workmanship and financial responsibility.
Annual meeting will be held on Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 11:00 am. The logistics will be posted on the website and in the Coconut Telegraph when they are confirmed.
A motion to adjourn was made by Joe Bokar and seconded by Barb Dwyer at 6:46 pm.