Category Archives: stormwater

DeBary defends $4M in drainage upgrades targeted by Stephen Bacon

DeBary’s long-established drainage campaign will continue for now after a failed attempt by City Council member Stephen Bacon to seek a referendum on $4 million of expenditures.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon
Lita Handy Peters
Lita Handy Peters

“This issue has been discussed and reviewed enough … This is ridiculous,” Vice Mayor Lita Handy-Peters said of Bacon’s concerns.

Bacon on Wednesday frustrated his colleagues as the only member to raise concerns about an issue called he called “contingent liabilities” that he feared could interfere with DeBary’s ability to borrow money.

“You do not have contingent liabilities,” interim City Manager Ron McLemore assured council members. City auditors have no concerns, and DeBary’s financial position, including borrowing ability, remains strong, he said.

A majority of council members, including Bacon, on Wednesday eventually voted to table his concerns indefinitely.

A contingent liability, according to Investopedia, “is a potential liability that may occur, depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event.”

Bacon is the only council member to consider the $4 million package of roughly 36 projects separate from the overall effort to improve DeBary’s drainage launched more than a decade ago.

Drainage woes

DeBary voters in 2006 approved bonds to upgrade stormwater after widespread flooding in 2004 and 2008.

DeBary flooding
DeBary flooding

The floods destroyed property, causing millions in damage, and revealed dramatically inadequate, incomplete, broken and non-existent drainage citywide.

They happened in new and old areas alike, sending water into homes that were not in flood zones or wetlands.

Some blamed the county, which approved growth in DeBary before it became a city on Jan. 1, 1994. DeBary was criticized, as well as regional water managers and other agencies.

DeBary flooding
Torrential rain from Tropical Storm Fay flooded this neighborhood lake, forcing many people from their homes in DeBary. George Armstrong/FEMA

Others blamed unusually heavy rainfall, including a tropical storm, that would have overwhelmed even the best drainage system.

Some say it was a complex problem with multiple contributing factors.

The most important takeaway, most city officials have said consistently, is to make reasonable drainage upgrades to prevent floods in the future.

“The city assumed the responsibility to protect its citizens from damage like this. Nobody’s built houses in wetlands. Nobody’s built houses in unimproved areas,” DeBary resident Howard Gates told council members. The projects questioned by Bacon are largely located in sections of the city build years ago without modern drainage systems.

“To suggest the city should not take this on is preposterous,” Gates added.

‘They should make the decision’

Bacon is the first DeBary City Council member to publicly question the program to this degree.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Bacon, who took office in January 2017, said he consulted with a certified public accounting firm and “they say we should not touch this project unless we are liable for this situation.”

He had planned to have a representative from the firm attend Wednesday’s meeting but that didn’t happen.

“It’s a contingent liability,” Bacon insisted. “It wasn’t a contingent liability when it wasn’t defined but now it’s defined and the accountant can give an opinion. That’s why I asked for him to be here. Our city manager is not an accountant. He can’t give a professional opinion [about] how it’s going to be reflected on the financial statement. So this is not a small-change item. It’s $4 million. The people – this is the people’s money. They should make the decision.  Not five of us on the council. They should make the decision. That’s what this is all about.”

2006 voter approval

Other council members say they are simply following through on an existing voter mandate, previous City Council policies and DeBary’s state-approved growth plan calling for adequate drainage.

They said voters already voiced support for stormwater upgrades when they voted to tax themselves for a drainage-improvement campaign in 2006.

That vote approved $10 million in bonds specifically for stormwater upgrades.

Those funds, along with grants and other sources of revenue, have been combined over the years, resulting in roughly $30 million worth of projects and better drainage.

Homeowners in DeBary pay $192 annually for stormwater for homes on public roads.

The fee was enacted in 2005 at $84 per home and raised to its current level in 2015.

‘Bean counter’ concerns

The city has completed most of its major drainage projects and it is now focusing on a collection of smaller projects, mostly clustered in DeBary’s oldest neighborhoods in the southeast area.

About nine of those 36 smaller projects have been completed.

McLemore told council members it wouldn’t be fair to stop the program now.

In fact, it would require a change to DeBary’s adequate-drainage policy in its growth plan.

Moreover, some people have paid into the program for years and have yet to get the benefit. Many of the uncompleted projects are in lower-value, older homes occupied by seniors, said McLemore, dismissing Bacon’s “bean counter” concerns.

Moral responsibility

Ron McLemore
Ron McLemore

“Millions of dollars have been spent on it. Most of the job has been done. This is to finish up the program with smaller less expensive projects. But if it’s your house involved, it’s important,” McLemore said. “You do it as a matter of a moral responsibility and to treat people in your city equally.”

City officials say all the work they’ve done so far has helped prevent flooding.

Nearly 12 inches of rain fell during Hurricane Irma last year and no homes flooded.

Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

Sign up for DeBary Life updates below:

 

 

 

 

 

$1.5M available to upgrade septic systems

Got a crappy septic system? The St. Johns River Water Management District wants to help.

The agency has $1.5 million available to help local governments and utilities to replace septic tanks with more efficient systems within the Volusia Blue, Wekiwa and Silver Springs “springsheds.”

The Volusia Blue springshed, headquartered in Orange City’s Blue Spring State Park, covers 130 square miles and includes parts of five cities in Volusia County, including DeBary.

The program is the latest effort announced to help springs in Florida.

The water district will explain the cost-sharing program at 10 a.m. Jan. 22 at its headquarters in Palatka.

You can link to the meeting remotely via Bhttps://global.gotomeeting.com/join/403433773.

“State funds will cover 50 percent and the district will contribute 25 percent toward a program to replace septic tanks with more efficient systems for the removal of nitrates,” the district said in a news release. “With up to $1.5 million in funding available, this program is targeted for areas where extending sewer lines may not be feasible.”

Contacts:

Project Manager Carol Brown at cgbrown@sjrwmd.com or 386-329-4816.

Project Management Bureau Chief Dale Jenkins at drjenkins@sjrwmd.com or 386-312-2304.

Sign up for DeBary Life updates below:

 

DeBary eyes 7 acres on U.S. 17-92 for center or investment

DeBary Community Center report

City Council members may soon consider a “soft contract” for roughly 7 acres next to the DeBary SunRail station – an area under intense development pressure.

A majority of council members recently authorized Interim City Manager Ron McLemore to negotiate a contract for the property along U.S. Highway 17-92.

The land, northwest of Fort Florida and U.S. 17-92, has been envisioned as a home for a proposed multimillion-dollar community center.

A soft contract, if approved by the council, would take the property off the market while evaluations, including environmental assessments and appraisals, take place, McLemore said. That due diligence period would last about 120 days.

“You lose nothing by doing this at all,” McLemore told council members. “You’re in control through the whole process.”

The council would also make the final decision on whether to purchase the land, once home for the Lake Villa Estates mobile-home park.

The city also owns about 3.5 acres of adjacent land.

During a City Council meeting Nov. 15, McLemore said it was important for the city to buy the 7 acres because of mounting development pressure.

McLemore: Control Property

McLemore said a representative for the landowner has told the city in “no uncertain terms” that the property will be sold to the highest bidder and “they don’t care what goes on it.”

Ron McLemore
Ron McLemore

“We have the opportunity to buy the property, create what’s going to happen on that property to what we want, and turn around and sell the property if we don’t get approval… on the community center and probably make a half million dollars on it,” McLemore. “That is a key piece of property and what puts us in the power position is we will control the stormwater. Who controls the stormwater controls the development on that whole side of the road.”

The land sits inside a roughly 200-acre transit-oriented district (TOD) targeted for a mix of uses, including residential and commercial.

DeBary community center support

In June, the DeBary City Council blessed a task-force recommendation to put a roughly 43,500 square-foot, publicly financed community center on the land if approved by voters.

A date for voter approval has not been set.

Mike Brady
Mike Brady

“I’m still of the opinion that the [7 acres in the] TOD is the best choice in term of synergy for further development, for future development. I just think it’s a natural choice,” said City Council member Mike Brady.

“If we wait until after the results of the referendum and, assuming that they’re positive, you run the risk of inflated prices or not having any land adjacent or even at all near our existing three and a half acres,” he added.

The construction has been estimated to cost $11 million with another $1.5 million for the land.

Center supporters say the facility is needed to provide a common gathering space in DeBary.

The vision for the center calls for an indoor running track, workout room, kitchen, meeting rooms and other amenities.

Sign up for DeBary Life updates:

 

DeBary gears up to celebrate on Oct. 26.

Sure, you live in DeBary. But does that mean you’re ready to celebrate DeBary? Well, you have a few days to think about it.

The party is 6 p.m. 9 p.m. Thursday,  Oct. 26 at City Hall, Florence K. Little Hall, the old fire station and the new fire station off U.S. Highway 17-92.

“Meet your neighbors and City staff, discover new community organizations, see your City facilities, and learn about the many services provided by the City of DeBary,” a city flier says.

Participants can expect:

  • Fire vs police competitions
  • Police and fire demonstrations
  • Tour city facilities
  • Best kids police/fire costume contest

This is about DeBary taking part in Florida City Government Week 2017, which runs from October 23-29.

“Join Florida’s cities this year in celebrating, showcasing and engaging citizens in the work of municipal government,” the Florida League of Cities said online. “The Florida City Government Week is a time for municipalities to provide and foster civic education, collaboration, volunteerism and more. All cities are encouraged to participate, and the League is here to help you celebrate what makes your city great.”

Sign up for DeBary Life updates below:

DeBary proudly assembling for Hurricane Irma


Got a skill? Want to help? DeBary residents are assembling a volunteer response team in case Hurricane Irma hits.

Tentative plans call for a meeting of potential volunteers Monday night with a location and other details to be released on DeBary Proud on Facebook.

“We are hoping to have people of all skills available for storm or other natural disaster events that can help along side first responders,” Jason Clisby wrote.

Volusia County offers up-to-date information about storm preparedness, including important checklists, online.

DeBary has been hit hard by flooding in the past, even by indirect storm strikes.  As a result, millions have been spent upgrading the River City’s storm-water systems.

Even with those upgrades, DeBary could suffer widespread flooding under a major storm, Public Works Director Alan Williamson told the City Council in June.

Tropical Storm Fay dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

Clisby issued an invitation for storm response volunteers on Sunday morning.

“If you are interested in volunteering or just getting more info, comment in this post.,” he wrote. “We will update as we have more information. We will likely call for a bigger meeting one evening this week to get everyone on the same page.”

The National Hurricane Center said this about Irma on Sunday:

  • It’s too early to say with certainty where Irma might hit in the U.S. mainland, though projections show it aiming at Florida and sitting northeast of Cuba by Friday.
  • Hurricane Irma is a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph while moving west-southwest.
  • The storm will power up as it moves over warmer water over the next three to five days.

“After 5 days, the forecast becomes much more uncertain, with most models suggesting a sharp turn north while remaining offshore,” the National Hurricane Center said this morning. “However, direct impacts to Florida can’t be ruled out as forecasts a week out are historically unreliable.”

Sign up for DeBary Life updates below:

DeBary’s Gemini Springs lands $380K for runoff cleanup

A $50 million cleanup plan for Florida’s springs includes cash to protect Gemini Springs and other water bodies in Volusia County.

  • More than $380,000 from state, water district and local authorities will pay for efforts in DeBary to help clean runoff from 200 acres flowing into Gemini Springs.
  • About $1.2 million from state, district and locals will fund a project designed to reduce water withdrawals from Blue Spring in Orange City.
  • Nearly $390,000 for a separate project will help pay to remove 179 septic tanks that threaten the health of Blue Spring.
  • An additional $2 million is earmarked for Blue, Silver and
    Wekiva to voluntarily replace and retrofit septic tanks at an estimated cost of $10,000 per tank.
  • Another $2.5 million is approved to reduce pollution in DeLeon Springs. The money will pay for a conservation easement to transition Fieser Dairy from a highly intensive dairy operation to a less intensive ranching operation.
  • “It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction of more than 200 pounds of total nitrogen per day and more than 80 pounds of total phosphorus per day,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.

The state and St. Johns River Water Management District are each chipping in $95,000, and local authorities will provide $190,000, for the Gemini Springs project.

It will pay for “nutrient separating baffle boxes” with “enhanced
nutrient reduction from stormwater and surficial groundwater along Dirksen Drive in Volusia County and upstream of the marsh inflow to Gemini Springs Run,” according to documents released by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office. The property in the Fredricka Road area receives runoff from the 123-acre “Plantation Estates to the north, which was constructed prior to the stormwater treatment era,” documents state. “The Mansion Blvd. site receives runoff from an additional 85 acres of Plantation Estates. ”

Scott’s office and the Florida DEP on Monday announced $50 million for 40 projects.  The so called Fighting for Florida’s Future budget will “improve water quality, reduce nutrient loading, recharge water supply and protect habitat in Florida’s iconic spring systems,” the Florida DEP said. This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon

“This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon springsheds,” a statement said. “Combined with match funding from Florida’s water management districts and local partners, the investment in springs projects statewide will total more than $94 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year.”

SIgn up for DeBary Life updates:

 

DeBary’s stormwater fees enrage 2 business owners as city seeks relief

DeBary flooding
DeBary flooding

Two DeBary business owners hammered the City Council recently over the escalating cost of building, managing and maintaining drainage in the River City.

The debate surfaced during a workshop Wednesday as council members continue to refine proposals to both give stormwater credits to certain business owners and make the fees more equitable for homeowners.

Homeowners in DeBary pay $192 annually for homes on public roads, a fee that was increased from $84.

The fee, imposed after widespread flooding, was enacted in 2005 at $84 per home and raised to its current level in 2015.

Homeowners generate $1.3 million of revenue for the roughly $2 million per year stormwater program.

Commercial and industrial property owners, who pay for most of the rest of the program, are charged based on the amount of so-called impervious surface areas on their properties. That includes rooftops and parking lots.

Kenny Patterson of American Auto Salvage & Recycling and Benson Junction Trading Depot said city officials are “double taxing” business owners who made drainage upgrades but still have to pay annual fees. He questioned the need for the upgrades, noting how certain sandy soils in Florida absorb water quickly.

“It sucks water into the sand. It’s gone,” he said.

Mildred Piper, who built The Village of DeBary commercial plaza at 2955 Enterprise Road roughly 10 years ago, said her stormwater upgrades were so extensive, they cost $250,000. She worries about her annual fees.

“I shouldn’t be charged $5,000 a year,” she said.

City Council member Erika Benfield assured Piper that her concerns have not “fallen on deaf ears.”

“What is the city actually doing for her?” added City Council member Stephen Bacon.

City officials are considering a credit, possibly worth as much as 25 percent, for certain commercial and industrial land owners.  They would have to apply for the discount and demonstrate they adequately manage stormwater onsite. The discount is estimated to reduce revenue from commercial and industrial property owners by 4 to 6 percent, or about $75,000 and $125,000 said stormwater consultant David Hamstra.

DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia said he favors giving business owners some relief.

“I’m looking for some answers for the credit,” he said. Hamstra said both Orange City and Deltona offer similar discounts and the impact on their

Erika Benfield
Erika Benfield

budgets has been minimal.

Applicants must hire an engineer to regularly inspect the stormwater systems to show they are functioning properly.

City staffers are expected to refine the stormwater funding proposals for both businesses and homeowners

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

before the next workshop, scheduled for 6 p.m. May 10 at City Hall,  16 Colomba Road.

City officials are also thinking about switching from the existing flat-rate fee for homeowers to a new system that would charge small homes less and large homes more.

For example, under one proposal, a house with less than 2,000 square feet would pay $100, a savings of $92. But a house under that same proposal with more than 4,500 square feet would pay $350, a substantial increase.

Benfield proposed a new category that would shift some of the burden to owners of homes that are larger than 6,000 square feet. That would help reduce the $350 rate, she and other council members stated.

Under a proposal likely to change for the next workshop, 1,310 households would get a $92 fee reduction and 2,739 would get a $17 cut. The same proposal would increase the fee by $58 for 2,457 property owners. Finally,  914 households — the largest ones in the city — would see an additional $158 charge for a total of $350.

The city scrambled after widespread flooding hit DeBary during storms in 2004 and 2008. Since then, the city has installed stormwater upgrades valued at roughly $30 million.

Two years after the first flood, DeBary voters in 2006 approved a $10 million bond to help jumpstart the drainage upgrades.

If the city rolled back the fee to $84 but didn’t add some other form of revenue, it would only collect enough to pay for the annual debt payments of $700,000. The city has 12 more years of loan payments.

Under that scenario, no new projects couldn’t be constructed, existing ones couldn’t be maintained and public-works employees would likely be laid off, council members were told at a previous workshop.

DeBary Stormwater