DUNNELLON – At a workshop on Wednesday night, Dunnellon City Council members inched closer to finalizing a deal to sell the city's water and sewer utilities to the Florida Governmental Utility Authority.
The discussion Wednesday followed a meeting last month with FGUA officials about the sale. A vote to officially enter into the agreement is scheduled for Monday.
“Now we wait for the loan to come through,” Vice Mayor Rick Hancock said after the meeting. He ran the workshop in the absence of the mayor.
City Administrator Dawn Bowne said the agreement has been discussed, checked, audited and reviewed and all the pieces are in place. It includes a City Council resolution that selling the utility assets is in the public's interest and an interlocal agreement between the city and the county and FGUA officials.
Bowne called the steps, discussions and hard work put into the document “quite an accomplishment” for the council. The longtime staff member said that until the sale is complete — which is expected in late March — the city does not plan to increase water and sewer rates.
City officials reached out to FGUA officials in September 2016. The city has been supplying residents with water and sewer services since the early 1900s and has more than 1,100 customers.
FGUA, a governmental body established nearly two decades ago, has acquired, owns, operates and maintains water and sewer utilities throughout Florida. It looked into the Dunnellon situation and decided to accept the city’s proposal.
Dunnellon officials feel they had to make the move to eliminate debt. It’s one of the latest such moves by city officials, as on Oct. 1 they turned the fire department over to the county.
FGUA will apply for a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the city’s water and sewer utilities.
Dunnellon will use $10.8 million of the money to pay off the city’s debts. The balance will then be put in the city’s reserves.
At the November meeting with FGUA officials, FGUA officials said they plan to invest $9.4 million over five years for improvements.
In other news from the workshop, council members decided to accept a request for the reappointment of Virginia Saalman and Jay Easom to the Pension Board of Trustees for two year terms.
Also, Police Chief Mike McQuaig is in the process of filling out the necessary paperwork for the Dunnellon Police Department to become an accredited law enforcement agency. McQuaig said the process should take two or three years.
Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, firstname.lastname@example.org or @almillerosb.