At the Thursday, May 2 regular meeting, Carrabelle city commissioners voted unanimously not to purchase Water Management Services Inc. of St. George Island (WMSI).
Company owner Eugene Brown and Bill Sundstrum of Sundstrum Friedman and Fumero, a Tallahassee law firm, offered the utility for $14.5 million.
Brown said a government entity should take over operation of the privately held firm. He said that centrally located Carrabelle, with its large modern water and sewer system, was the logical choice because the state now favors regional water providers.
Sundstrum said he has bought and sold 141 utility companies during his career as an attorney and consultant. He said mature utility companies have a reliable cash flow. He described WMSI as “a totally different company than it was a year ago.”
He promised that grants and a state loan at less than 3 percent interest could be obtained and the loan would be repaid in 30 years. “This will benefit the city and the island and allow you to flatten rates,” Sundstrum said.
His promises fell on deaf ears.
Mayor Curley Messer said it would take no less than 60 years to repay the loan and refused to “place that burden on our children.”
Carrabelle businessman Gene Langston spoke in support of Brown and Sundstrum. He suggested that either county funding or RESTORE Act money could be used for the purchase.
“It wouldn’t be Carrabelle money,” Langston said. “Normally I would be against this but somebody’s going to have to step up.”
Water and sewer commissioner Brenda LaPaz said the WMSI was in need of many repairs. She said Carrabelle already had too much debt from its existing water management infrastructure.
Commissioner Cal Allen agreed Carrabelle could not take on WMSI. “From a business standpoint it looked good,” he said. “But the political aspect gets awful. This doesn’t look like it’s a feasible thing for us right now.”
Brown and Sundstrum said they would approach other regional governments with the offer.