EDITORIAL: Annual GIWA meeting set for January 15

January 12, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

Just a reminder that GIWA’s Annual Membership Meeting is to be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the Boca Grande Community Center. 2017 has been another very busy year for your Board and Staff, with work progressing on current and future improvements to both your water and wastewater treatment facilities. On top of that, we had to deal with the inconvenience of Hurricane Irma!
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 rehabilitated with changes that allow the plant to operate more efficiently, in addition to increasing the capacity 194,000 gallons per day. This project was scheduled for substantial completion in January 2017, but our 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).
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 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.
Your 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.
At our 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 service 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 on October 1, 2017.
Due to a very dry winter and spring, water usage has been up in 2017, so our per capita water usage will most likely increase even more. We must make every effort to reduce our water usage to meet the 2019 mandate. GIWA wants to remind everyone that if landscape sprinklers are turned off when it rains, it will go a long way towards meeting our permit mandate. Many irrigation systems on the island are not turned off when it rains even during the summer rainy months. The easiest way to accomplish this is to install automatic rain shutoff devices that override irrigation systems when sufficient rain has fallen. Florida law requires a working rain shutoff device for all automatic sprinkler systems. Besides being a requirement, this is simply an effortless way to save not only one of our most precious resources, but also money on your monthly water bill.
In closing the 2017 year, GIWA is on sound financial ground. Your Board and Staff will remain proactive in planning for future maintenance projects and upgrades to the water and wastewater                   system.