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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2019 1 week ago

Ormond Beach to pursue septic to sewer conversions — but for residents first

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The north peninsula will have to wait.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

Converting septic tanks to city sewer is high up on the Ormond Beach City Commission's list of priorities for half-cent sales tax funding. 

Just not in Ormond-by-the-Sea.

The City Commission didn't vote on the issue, but three out of the five commissioners were in favor of converting the septic tanks in the city limits before they looked to the north peninsula, which according to a 2013 report by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County, houses three of the worst suited areas in the county for septic. 

While City Commissioners Troy Kent, Rob Littleton and Mayor Bill Partington said they would be favorable toward helping get county and state funding to help with the endeavor, they believed Ormond Beach residents should come first. Kent said he didn't have a good answer for the 560 residents on why the city was focusing on the north peninsula first. 

"Ormond Beach residents are who we represent up here," Kent said. "That's who put us in these chairs — rented chairs, for a short amount of time."

Commissioners Dwight Selby and Susan Persis disagreed. The areas in the city with septic — which include Hidden Hills, Broadwater, Oak Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, Bonita Place, Knollwood Estates and Tidewater — are nowhere near as critical as the north peninsula. The 2013 Florida Department of Health report cites Broadwater as being suited for septic.

Selby said he understood Kent's desire to put residents first, but that there was an opportunity now with Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis focusing on water quality projects to get this done. This is something the city needed to take a lead on, he said, and added that someday, he believes the north peninsula residents will also be Ormond Beach residents.

"We know these political jurisdictions reasonably well," Selby said. "But the water doesn't. The water doesn't have a clue of where the county line is, or where the city line is, and the water doesn't care."

Partington said if the city is looking at an annexation strategy, bringing Plantation Oaks all the way to Halifax Plantation would make more sense. Then maybe, and after the county spends million to "cure the horrible neglect that they have perpetrated on the Ormond-by-the-Sea area," annexing the north peninsula could be looked at. However, he doesn't believe those residents want to annexed anyway.

Partington also said that with only two year terms, it was possible that if the city spent the $1 million for the design and permitting of the first phase of the conversion in the north peninsula (about 700 homes), they could all be voted out of their seats in the next election by candidates against the project. The money would have been wasted, he said. If they had four-year terms, and participation from the county and state, that would be a different story, he said.

"I'm comfortable spending Ormond Beach dollars on Ormond Beach residents," Partington said. "And then Commissioner Selby, that could prove that we could do it, maybe on a smaller scale than what we're looking to do down the road."

Kent questioned why the commission should invest in fixing Ormond-by-the-Sea's septic tank issue. Is it because Ormond Beach is next door to them? Should the city tackle Palm Coast's or Oak Hill's issues? 

Selby said the county won't do it. Despite vowing to focus on water quality projects, Volusia County did not list the north peninsula septic to sewer conversion in their half-cent sales tax priority list. The north peninsula is already hooked up to the city's water utility, and the city has the sewer capacity to add them in.

At the end of the meeting, Selby said that while he respected the commission's position, he was disappointed he didn't "do a better job" in communicating the importance of what needs to happen on the north peninsula and the opportunities that are available to the city.

"Now is the moment," Selby said.

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