Port St. Joe commissioners hope another 30-plus weeks and $60,000 will supply a more definitive answer to chronic problems with discolored water experienced by many residents on the south end of the county.
Commissioners approved Tuesday moving ahead with a water distribution profile and pilot study that aimed at definitively identifying the culprit(s) at the root of the discolored water problems that have plagued the city since a $21 million surface water plant went online some three years ago.
“I feel like we have to move forward with it,” said Mayor Mel Magidson. “Hopefully it will lead to some answers to the water problem.”
The study, which will include taking samples over months at different junctures in the trip water takes from the plant to some households and businesses and off-site chemical protocol testing at Virginia Tech, will be something of a fiscal wash for the Commission.
Last week the board of the Northwest Florida Water Management District announced a grant of $106,000 to the city for improvements to the Chipola Pump Station, where water is pumped from the Chipola River to the freshwater canal the city taps for its water, including replacement of the main engine at the station.
That will allow the city to take $65,000 earmarked in the current budget for that work into cash carry forward. Since there is no budget line to pay for the pilot study, the city will tap cash carry forward to pay for it.
“Money-wise it will be kind of a wash,” Magidson said.
The contract for the study, between the city’s engineers Preble Rish and subcontractor CDM Smith, which designed the new plant, is capped at $60,000 and Commissioners Rex Buzzett and Bill Kennedy said in conversations with David Kozan of CDM it was indicated some components of the study may come in under budget.
The scope of the work, Kennedy noted, is being dictated in large measure by the water management district.
“We may end needing some money at the end to tie up loose ends,” Buzzett said. “We want to do this as economically as possible.”
A resident questioned why not wait until line replacement – currently in the first of three phases to replace 20 miles of line – to perform the study.
“We know no matter what we do with the distribution system we still know we have problems with certain house plumbing, certain situations,” Kennedy said. “We just don’t know what that is.”
Magidson added, “We have to figure out what is going on because there is no rhyme or reason to it.”
At the recommendation of water plant manager Larry McLamma, commissioners are going to examine the vegetation growing along certain sections of the freshwater canal to consider bringing down some pine trees and other vegetation.
City manager Jim Anderson said staff recently took a tour of the canal system and found a noticeable difference in clarity of the water the closer the water was to the plant.
“We will move that to the front burner,” Magidson said. “That could help us with the water.”
Commissioners approved a resolution that will raise garbage rates charged by Waste Pro, per its contract, by 2.5 percent, equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index, beginning the first of the year.
City manager Jim Anderson said Waste Pro had not raised rates in two years and were permitted under contract, which expires next year, to impose a rate increase linked to the CPI.
Though the Board of County Commissioners at its most recent meeting said they would schedule a workshop with stakeholders concerning the future of the Economic Development Council, Anderson said he had yet to hear from the county on scheduling the workshop.