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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Sep. 12, 2019 10 months ago

Ormond-by-the-Sea residents deluge Florida Rep. Tom Leek with septic-to-sewer concerns

Florida Rep. Tom Leek provided a legislative update at a Citizens For Ormond Beach Speaker Series, and spoke about water quality.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Ormond-by-the-Sea residents raised their septic-to-sewer and annexation concerns with Florida Rep. Tom Leek at a Citizens For Ormond Beach Speaker Series on Wednesday, Sept. 11, asking him to gather more data on their septic tanks before he helps the city secure funding for the project.

Leek, who only represents about a 1-mile stretch of Ormond-by-the-Sea, said he had spoken to City Commissioner Dwight Selby earlier this year about the possibility of the city taking the conversion on in the north peninsula, and while there are other causes of pollution to waterways, septics factors into that. 

“Septic is not the entire answer, but it is part of the answer, and it’s something maybe that we could deal with," Leek said.

His role in the matter to help the possible conversion be as affordable as can be for the north peninsula, he explain. However, he said he doesn't want to force the issue on the residents.

Several Ormond-by-the-Sea residents spoke up at the meeting, reiterating concerns about annexation. At that point, Leek asked City Manager Joyce Shanahan to speak. 

Shanahan said a lot of incorrect information has been circulated. The city first started providing water to the north peninsula in 1979 without an annexation agreement in place,  she said. In the 1980s, cities were mandated to create comprehension plans, and one of the elements on that plan was to have a section about annexation. The city's current plan states properties seeking city utilities must either annex into Ormond Beach or sign an annexation agreement.

However, Shanahan said the comp plan doesn't apply to Ormond-by-the-Sea.

“We know you don’t have any interest in being part of the city, and the city has no intent of annexing you," Shanahan said.

The city will work to clarify that in the near future, she added. The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18.

One resident said the 2013 Health Department study from which the septic-to-sewer conversion was born doesn't address what exactly should be looked at in the north peninsula.

“We’re all for clean water," she said. "We’re all for protecting the environment, but let’s do it with some information and some science behind it.”

On water quality

In light of Gov. Ron DeSantis announcing Wednesday, Sept. 11, that he will be requesting $625 million in recurring funding for the next three years for restoring the Everglades and protecting the state's water sources, Leek said he is happy with where the state is headed, from an environmental standpoint.

“As somebody who has grown up on the water, raised his children on the water, and continues to this day to spend any free time I get on the water, it was such a breath of fresh air to see what Gov. DeSantis wanted to do, and then to see him do it," Leek said.

DeSantis also voiced support for legislation to increase fines for environmental crimes by 50%, and allow the Department of Environmental Protection to assess daily fines until the problem has been fixed, or a plan has been put in place to fix it.

Municipalities are some of the biggest pollutants, Leek said.

“If you are living in Florida and you are not an environmentalist, you’re probably not doing it right," Leek said.

Local projects

As a "sophomore," or representative on his second term, Leek said his joining into the House's leadership team has allowed for more local projects to receive funding. 

He highlighted the following during his presentation:

  • Williamson Boulevard widening: $2 million
  • Volusia/Flagler Easter Seals Autism Center of Excellence: $100,000
  • Ormond Beach Municipal Airport Access road: $472,500
  • Embry-Riddle Hybrid Propulsion Test Cell: $1 million

On the Embry-Riddle funding, Leek said that if citizens aren't paying attention to what the university is doing, they should be.

“What they are doing through that Research Park, I believe, will be transformative for Volusia County," Leek said.

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