■ BY SUE ERWIN
The Gasparilla Island Water Association held its annual membership meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the Boca Grande Community Center.
President Les Diaz called the meeting to order.
GIWA secretary Sue Spurgeon announced three nominees proposed by the Board of Directors:
Bill Caldwell, III, a year-round resident who has previously served 12 years on the Board of Directors; Tom Courtney, a year-round resident who owned a thoroughbred horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky and Papa John’s Pizza franchises; Archer Hager, II, retired chief operating officer of Hager companies and a year-round resident.
A motion was made to approve the new board members and it passed.
Diaz said 2017 was a busy year for the board and staff, and 2018 is expected to be another productive year.
“Work is progressing on current and future improvements to both water and wastewater treatment facilities,” Diaz said. “Currently improvements are nearing completion of an expansion to the water treatment facilities including two new deep wells north of the existing facility.”
With this project, the reverse osmosis process was reha bilitated with changes that allow the plant to operate more efficiently, in addition to increasing the ca pacity to 194,000 gallons per day. This project was scheduled for substantial completion in January 2017, but the contractor was unable to complete the project. Management has been taken over by the surety company holding their performance and payment bond. It has been a long struggle this year, but we will end up with a high quality project. The original contract amount of $3,742,450 will be reduced to $3,400,000 because we did not use a contingency fund.
Also, some items that were not critical to the project were not completed. Additionally, GIWA will be assessing liquidated damages due to construction delays. This project is financed with a 1.16 percent 20-year loan through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF).
The existing wastewater treatment plant is located on the Gasparilla Inn golf course. The rehabilitation will include the construction of new structures, and some rehabilitation when possible to existing structures. To limit the impact on the Gasparilla Inn guests, the heavy construction portions of the project will be completed during the summer months. To accomplish this, the project will be phased in over a period of two to three years.
The new wastewater treatment facility will include the most up to date treatment methods that will treat the wastewater to a much higher quality. The reclaimed water from the plant should meet any new future requirements.
Hole-Montes Inc. is currently in the design and permitting phase for the rehabilitation of our existing wastewater treatment facility. This is a major project for GIWA with estimated construction costs totaling $15 million. GIWA is not eligible to finance wastewater projects through the low interest SRF, therefore, financing was secured through CoBank this summer. CoBank is a member-owned cooperative bank that finances utilities. They have been GIWA’s primary lender for many years. CoBank has competitive rates and GIWA receives dividend payments annually, which lowers the effective interest rate.
The new treatment plant is expected to last 50 years.
Treasurer Mike Holmes gave a financial report and said the 2017 audit results were quite good.
“The auditors’ report expresses an unmodified opinion of our financial statements,” Holmes said. “No significant deficiencies relating to the audit of the financial statements are reported – the company is in good shape and we received kudos by the financial examiners.”
Holmes went on to explain that GIWA sold 379 million gallons of water in 2017, which resulted in $4,400,000 in revenue.
At the 2017 annual meeting, the membership approved a series of rate increases designed to ensure GIWA could obtain necessary financing for the wastewater treatment plant project, and maintains sound financial conditions by meeting existing and future annual debt services and debt financial covenants, maintains adequate funding for operation and maintenance of the water and wastewater systems including renewals and replacements, and maintains adequate cash reserves. The first 9.5 percent increase became effective on April 1, 2017, and the second 9.5 percent increase became effective on April 1, 2017.
If you are member who was unable to attend the meeting, copies of the 2017 annual audit, the 2018 budget and minutes of the January 2017 annual meeting are available at the GIWA office.
For more information, visit mygiwa.com.