Alligator Point water customers to vote on expansion

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Granted unanimous support of the Florida Legislature, a measure to expand the boundaries of the Alligator Point Water Resource District will now be up to about 66 voters who reside on properties served by the district but just outside of it.

Heather Riley, the county’s supervisor of elections, said plans are on track to conduct a mail ballot that will require all 66 registered voters eligible to vote to return their ballots no later than 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

She said the ballots will likely be sent out sometime around the last week of August, with the cost of the election, a few thousand dollars, to be borne by the district.

If a majority of those voting support the measure, then all these properties, often referred to as “the pine streets” right off of Alligator Drive will be brought into the district.

They then will be subject to paying the district’s 1.66420-mill property tax, but will no longer be assessed a flat monthly surcharge of $30 which was charged them for receiving services from the district, but living outside of it.

“Residents of the area to be annexed may see reduced costs for services, depending on the value of their property relative to the current surcharge,” read the analysis of the legislation backed by both State Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-Port St. Joe) and State Sen. Loranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee).

The Economic Impact Statement filed with the bill indicated a net revenue decline of $4,388 per year related to the shift from monthly surcharges to ad valorem collections. 

The measure to hold the election passed the House on March 4, and the Senate on March 10, both unanimously, and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The residents within the Alligator Point Water Resources District last year saw a growth in their tax base of about $11.1 million, from $154.9 million to just shy of $165 million, or roughly 7.2 percent.

Bucky Mitchell, who chairs the three-member board made up of landowners who are appointed by the governor, said the legislation would affect 127 properties, but only 66 people who live on these properties are registered to vote in Franklin County. Chip Morrison and Tom Van der Platts comprise the other two members of the board.

Mitchell said one expected outcome of the expanded boundaries will be the district’s plan to spend about $255,000 related to the construction of a fire protection system in the area to be annexed.

“That's something we represented to the legislature and to the Franklin County commissioners that will happen once these folks are brought into district boundaries,” he said, noting that it would have to be approved as a capital expense by the three-member board.

Currently, these areas are served by two-inch water lines and not hydrants, Mitchell said. “It’s not the most ideal of situations for those folks. We would add hydrants and run new 10-inch pipes to serve these fire hydrants.”

He said that as the district is expanded and improvements are made with fire protection, the expectation is the area’s ISO should go down, which is preferred, and property insurance rates would be reduced.

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