HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is expanding the City’s service area and provide water and wastewater services along County Road 236 up to the Interstate 75/CR 236 interchange — an area just outside the city limits. The City Commission approved an ordinance creating a Utility District at the March 9 City Commission meeting.

“Extending services to the interchange will help support water and wastewater services in High Springs and may lower costs for residents,” said City Manager Ashley Stathatos. In addition, it will encourage development of the interchange area.

Prompting discussion was a $2.4 million wastewater grant obtained through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to construct a wastewater service line along the three-mile section of CR 236.

High Springs is also working on a second grant submittal that could piggy-back onto the first project. This grant application is through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and would allow the City to lay water service lines along the same pipeline. “The cost savings of laying both lines at the same time is significant,” said Stathatos.

Should the application be successful, it would allow the City to provide regional water and wastewater services to existing and future commercial businesses and residential homeowners. The project would also provide water and wastewater revenue to the City. As property owners routinely use septic tanks for waste disposal in this area, the state is attempting to get as many properties onto wastewater services as possible to reduce the chance of septic tanks leaching nitrogen and phosphorus into the aquifer.

A few citizens living in the area impacted by the path of the lines expressed concern that the City would force them to hook up to City water and sewer services whether they wanted to hook up or not.

Although the ordinance was passed on first reading with the caveat that property owners within 250 feet of the lines would be required to hook up, Commissioners discussed modifying that requirement if the grant is awarded to High Springs.

Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said there are large businesses that have inquired about developing in the I-75/CR 236 interchange area, but have been deterred by the lack of municipal services available in the area. He said provision of these services will greatly enhance opportunities for development and job growth.

This matter is expected to be heard on second reading at a City Commission meeting in April.

In other City business, the Commission appointed Commissioner Tristan Grunder to serve as liaison between the City and the Opioid Task Force. Grunder is a 15-year law enforcement officer with expertise in handling drug-related issues.

This appointment follows the Commission’s earlier approval of an interlocal agreement between High Springs and other Alachua County municipalities to create an awareness campaign regarding the opioid crisis and educate the public on opioid addiction and treatment. As part of the interlocal agreement, each city appoints one person to sit on an awareness campaign committee.

On another matter, Grunder expressed concern that the High Springs Police Department is using Vietnam War-era rifles and suggested the City expend $35,000 of the remaining nearly $370,000 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to upgrade their weaponry. The Commission tasked Police Chief Antoine Sheppard with providing an updated quote by the next meeting on the cost of replacing the Department’s weapons.

In other City business, the Commission unanimously voted to accept the 2020-21 fiscal year audit. “The independent accountants’ examination report concluded that the City is in compliance with Local Government Investment Policies for the year that ended Sept. 30, 2021,” said Stathatos. Their findings also indicated areas for improvement as staff changes occurred during the fiscal year.

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