State budget includes $500K for Flagler Beach wastewater plant

The Florida Legislature has appropriated funds for Flagler Beach’s wastewater treatment plant. Now city officials hope the governor will allow it to remain in the budget.

FLAGLER BEACH — City officials are hoping a $500,000 state budget appropriation for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant will survive the governor’s veto pen this time around.

Last year’s request for $450,000 did not.

“It made it through the gauntlet of legislation,” City Manager Larry Newsom told city commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday, the same day the state Legislature completed work on the budget. “Rep. (Paul) Renner called me personally.”

Renner had initially requested the full $1,627,000 sought by the city for the project, and state Sen. Travis Hutson requested $1 million. The final amount was reduced to $500,000 through the budget’s winnowing process.

If the appropriation survives a veto, the funds will go toward phase III of the project, which is now in the design stage. It will be used for technology to better handle biosolids, improving on the drying-bed system currently in place, and provide for backup power to maintain operations during a power outage, preventing the possibility of sanitary sewage overflow.

“Flagler Beach is extremely appreciative of Rep. Renner and Sen. Hutson for getting this where it is,” Newsom said during an interview Tuesday.

During the recently concluded legislative session, Newsom traveled to Tallahassee three times to meet with Renner, Hutson, Gov. Rick Scott’s staff and the city’s lobbyist, Anfield Consulting Group.

The Legislature passed its $88.7 billion spending plan in a special session Sunday.

The cost of the project’s phase III is estimated to be $2,170,000. To help meet that figure, the city has applied for a $1.5 million grant through the St. Johns River Water Management District.

As a backup, should either funding source fall through, Flagler Beach officials are prepared to use money from the city’s utility fund. That was also the plan last year when Scott vetoed a $450,000 appropriation for the plant.

The city has already spent more than $1.4 million on plant upgrades.

“The last thing we want to do is let our wastewater treatment plant get to the point where DEP has to put money into it,” Newsom said last week. “They did that in Plantation Bay.”

He was referring to a $2 million Department of Environmental Resources grant appropriated in 2016 toward construction of a new treatment facility to purify the tap water in the gated subdivision near the Flagler-Volusia county line.