Palm Coast, county haggle over airport utilities
By FRANK FERNANDEZ, Staff Writer
January 15, 2011 12:05 AM
PALM COAST — Vice Mayor Frank Meeker said the city has to make some choices as it continues haggling over providing water and sewer service to the county airport.
To illustrate the choice, Meeker reached into his briefcase during a recent meeting and retrieved a pliable sock monkey and a menacing toy gorilla.
“We have to decide whether we are going to be a sock monkey on this deal or a 500-pound gorilla,” Meeker said.
Palm Coast and the county have been at loggerheads over the issue of water and sewer service to the airport and a planned armory. The county owns the airport, but the airport is surrounded by the city. Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said it would make sense for the city to annex the airport land, even though the county would continue to own and operate the airport.
Flagler County has rejected any plan by Palm Coast to annex the airport land.
Meanwhile, the National Guard is designing a $20.8-million Armed Forces Reserve Center on a 55-acre site off Belle Terre Boulevard south of State Road 100. And that center will need water and sewer service.
“The city is going to do everything we can to make sure the National Guard’s plans happen on schedule,” Landon said in a phone interview Friday. “That was a very clear message by the City Council that was important to us.”
Palm Coast officials have agreed not to require annexation of the armory site as a condition of providing water and sewer service to the airport or the armory.
Landon said city code allows that exemption to promote harmony among local governments. The county has agreed that the city could annex a small park to be built on the armory site.
But the city would like the county to agree that all development on county property along S.R. 100 and Belle Terre will meet Palm Coast’s architectural, sign and landscape requirements.
During a meeting this week, Landon displayed pictures of signs on county land that don’t meet city code. He said the city is working to make S.R. 100 more attractive and it needs the county’s help.
Landon also said the city would like to accept ownership and maintenance of water and sewer main lines serving the airport and its customers. Palm Coast provides those utilities to main meters at the airport, but the city’s involvement stops there. The county airport manager handles individual customers.
The county, though, has rebuffed the city’s latest offer on the airport.
“As written it is not acceptable however from the City Council workshop it sounds like they are willing to work on it,” Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey wrote in an e-mail sent by spokesman Carl Laundrie. “The bottom line is I need to resolve this quickly to retain the National Guard and a half-million-dollar infrastructure grant from the Department of Transportation.”
But Coffey declined to say exactly what was unacceptable because negotiations are continuing, Laundrie said.
Laundrie said before the agreement is approved it will be discussed at a public meeting.
Meanwhile the National Guard continues to work on the design of the reserve center, said Florida Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark S. Widener. He said the guard is hoping that Congress will appropriate money for the facility this year. The guard needs the new facility because its lease runs out on its Daytona Beach armory on Sept. 31, 2013. “I’m not concerned about getting the funding,” Widener said. “I am concerned about the timeline, to be sure that we get the funding that we need and get the building built in a timely manner as far as our time to vacate the Daytona facility.”
Vice Mayor Meeker said during the workshop that he is concerned about the city’s lack of control over water and sewer at the airport. Meeker said that without the city overseeing those services to individual customers on the airport it would be difficult for it to deal with problems, such as if a user pours a chemical into the wastewater system which knocks out the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Meeker also said if water consumption ever were to expand too much at the airport it could effect the rest of the city. “I think it’s critical that we control the operation and maintenance of our system within the county property so that (we) have better control of what’s going in and how much is coming out,” Meeker said. Flagler County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said commissioners would discuss the city’s requests. He said he is only one voice on the five-member board. “I want to be very careful that I don’t tie future commissioners into something that was just a quick fix for today,” McLaughlin said, “and they’ve got it hanging around their necks for 20 years.”