Carrabelle wades into sewer plant costs

Brenda Lapaz Photo available for purchase

Brenda Lapaz

David Adlerstein
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 02:51 PM.

A Carrabelle city commissioner has raised questions over the high cost of repaying for upgrades to its sewage system.

At the Feb. 7 meeting of the Carrabelle city commission, Commissioner Brenda LaPaz provided a report on the debt load incurred by the city when it upgraded the city’s sewage system, a project begun in 1996 and completed last year.

The bottom line is that the city owes more than $27 million, to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); about $19 million will be paid for by a federal Disadvantaged Small Community Grant. With interest, about $11 million must be paid by Carrabelle.

At the inception of the sewage treatment project more than 15 years ago, the Florida legislature appropriated over time $5.4 million to be placed in escrow. At the time, it was believed interest from that account, combined with increased receipts from new sewer customers, would repay the debt without raising rates.

LaPaz, the city’s water and sewer commissioner, demanded to know why that assumption was wrong.

She wrote that she became concerned in Oct. 2011 when she noticed the city’s yearly financial statement listed an outstanding bill of more than $27 million to be paid for by water and sewer revenues.

“I questioned this liability and asked the city staff, the city attorney, consultants, citizens who had attended past city meetings, and past commissioners,” she wrote. “No one seemed to know much about this liability except that it was understood that the sewer plant project would be paid for with grant money and with money given to Carrabelle by the state legislature which was deposited into an investment account at Capital City Trust.”

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