Tallahassee approves $20 million sewer expansion project

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Tallahassee commissioners unanimously backed extending the city’s sewer system to just south of Capital Circle with no apparent path to funding the $20 million project.

City employees assured commissioners there was time to figure out how to fund the addition of more than 35,000 feet of water and sewer lines.

Commissioners approved the allocation of $2 million to start the planning and design phase of the project.

City Commissioner Jack Porter expressed hesitation about going from the idea first mentioned by Mayor John Dailey in a quasi-political press conference to having the project approved in just 20 days.

She was rebuffed by her colleagues who said the drive to extend sewer services to the Southside, in this case an area known as the Triangle, had been a problem for the better part of two decades.

Background:Tallahassee sewer expansion price estimate doubles as city officials accept proposal

Also:Plans to extend Tallahassee’s sewer system south of Capital Circle are underway

City Commissioner Jack Porter listens as Leon County residents voice their opinions on proposed funding for Doak Campbell Stadium during a master plan meeting at City Hall Thursday, February 24, 2022.

“We’ve had a lot of time to talk about it and I think we should act as soon as possible,” Porter said. “It feels very rushed to me and, without a super compelling reason for us to act today, I would feel much, much more comfortable if we had more information, not to mention the opportunity for the public to comment on it.”

She noted that it would be difficult for the city to recoup the investment because many residents who might have access to sewers do not pay city taxes or utilities. The city generally does not provide services to the county without a compelling reason, she added.

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox disagreed and noted that now was the time to move forward, with Leon County also seeking funds to help residents pay connection fees.

“This work is part of Southside’s action plan that has been pending for 20 years,” Williams-Cox said. “It’s time to get things done.”

Tallahassee City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox speaks at a ceremony to dedicate a new historical marker to the memory of four Leon County lynching victims in the ballroom of the AC Hotel on Saturday July 17, 2021.

Williams-Cox and Commissioner Curtis Richardson attended the press conference held by Dailey on October 6.

Porter has repeatedly said she supports the project but wants the staff to have more information. She noted the timing of the November 8 election.

“This body has had four years to act on this and, frankly, two weeks before an election…” she said. “I think it’s appropriate to wait 20 years to wait a few more weeks.”

In the election campaign

Porter’s concerns came after questions about where the city expected to find $20 million to fund the project.

Steve Shafer, general manager of the city’s Department of Underground Utilities and Public Infrastructure, said efforts are being made to leverage state and federal grants. However, the staff had not yet determined where the money was for the project.

“We haven’t finalized a funding strategy for this to date,” Shafer told the commissioners. He said the planning and design phase would be completed before a solid source of funding was determined.

“We have some time to do that.”

Tallahassee and Leon County officials announce plans to extend sewer services to several hundred buildings in the triangle between the Woodville and Crawfordville freeways along South Capital Circle

The area is inside the urban services area, where municipal services like water and sewer can be extended, however, it is a patchwork of parcels that are inside and outside the city limits.

The area where sewer and water will be extended is wedged between the Crawfordville and Woodville Freeways, Capital Circle South and Gaile Avenue.

Ongoing efforts at the Leon County Commission have focused on replacing septic systems for environmental and health reasons. County officials have already pledged to help secure funding for the roughly $10,000 per property to cover the cost of converting to the sewer system.

The proposal surfaced just weeks before Election Day, in which Dailey is seeking re-election in a close race against Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier. It also came days before Leon County Chairman Bill Proctor’s powerful endorsement.

Contact Karl Etters at [email protected] or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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