Water use goals met, wastewater facility construction on track

January 1, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY THE GASPARILLA ISLAND WATER ASSOCIATION – The Gasparilla Island Water Association’s annual membership meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the Boca Grande Community Center, with three nominations on the floor for executive directorship.

Bill Caldwell, III, a current director on GIWA’s board is up for re-election.Another current director,Tom Courtney, is up for re-election. Susan Spurgeon, past secretary on the GIWA board of directors.

The following is a message from Leslie Diaz, the board president:

2020 has been another very busy year for your Board and Staff. We have been hard at work on current and future improvements to both your water and wastewater treatment facilities.

COVID-19 has made this year extra challenging. GIWA’s staff is essential to the continued operation of your water and wastewater facilities; therefore, GIWA has made efforts to protect the health and safety of our team.

Phase II of the much-needed rehabilitation of our water reclamation facility located on the Gasparilla Inn Golf Course is well underway. This summer two concrete tanks and elevated platform to support new equipment and walkways were constructed. A prefabricated electrical building, and equipment were placed on the platform. One tank will be used to equalize incoming wastewater flows throughout the day, allowing for optimal treatment. This tank is scheduled to be put in service in late spring, 2021.

Phase III includes the installation of state-of-the-art biological treatment equipment that will utilize the second tank and is scheduled to be put in service in 2022. Plans for Phase IV include the removal of old steel tanks and the construction of two additional concrete tanks. Your new plant will meet current as well as future anticipated regulations.

We have both good and bad news concerning the cost of construction.  The bad news is that construction costs are higher than estimated. The original estimate completed in 2016 was $15 million, but it now appears that construction will total closer to $20 million. Due to the difficulty of construction in such a small footprint and the limited heavy construction season, estimating what contractors would be bidding throughout the project has been challenging. We also saw higher labor, material and equipment costs than anticipated.

The good news is that with the historically low interest rates, we have drawn $7.5 million of our loan and set the rate at 3.75 percent for 25 years.  We had anticipated a rate of 5.25 percent. This savings will go a long way towards covering the higher construction costs. We are in hopes that future loan draws can be set at these historically low rates as well.

Our three water storage tanks on the Island also require rehabilitation.  The oldest tank has been in service since 1968, and the newest was constructed in 1982. We had planned to complete this work in 2020, but it was delayed because we decided to fund the project with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) State Revolving Loan funds at 1.16 percent interest rate. We are now waiting for FDEP approval to award the project.

GIWA’s water withdrawal permit issued by Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in 2011 includes a requirement that we reduce our daily average water use per person from an average of 176 gallons as follows:

• Reduce to 164 gallons per person by December 31, 2014

• Reduce to 150 gallons per person by December 31, 2019

The table above includes our daily gross water use, population and our compliance per capita use as reported to SWFWMD.

As you can see, we met our mandate! This is partially because our water withdrawals decreased while population increased. SWFWMD also changed their regulations that allowed us a larger credit for reclaimed water usage on the golf course which is deducted from our withdrawals. While we were in compliance in 2019, we were still very close to the required 150 gallons per person per day, so we need the membership to continue to conserve water whenever possible.

As 2020 is coming to a close, 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.

Sincerely,

Leslie Diaz

President