By LEGION TAYLOR
Sopchoppy city commissioners were provided an update on the master plan for the water system, which they had put in motion a few months ago.
The meeting was held last week, on Monday, Dec. 18.
Ric Delp from Baskerville-Donovan Inc. presented the commission with a brief update on the master plan, saying that they’re nearing completion on the project.
This master plan involves a breakdown of the estimated increase in water usage, and how the proposed improvements will have an effect on the water system. It also included a breakdown of those improvements, such as what order they’re to be completed in and when each should be finishing up. It also had a map of pipeline improvements that would be required in order to compensate for the growth that’s expected over the next 10 years.
Most of the improvements, however, are on the well sites, which have been discussed at length at previous city commission meetings.
In another matter, a few citizens came to express concern with the emergency communication tower that was approved at the November meeting, including Katrina Kearn, who lives adjacent to the site where the tower is to be built. She claimed that it could hurt property values around it by as much as 20%, and that it would hurt wildlife in the area as well.
Wakulla County recently moved forward with improvements to the county’s radio communications system, including the addition of new radio towers. First responders – including the sheriff’s office and firefighters – have said the new system is badly needed. For example, there is limited to no radio service in the Smith Creek area of the county.
But some Sopchoppy residents are concerned about the location of the tower in the city.
David Kearn said it would affect the natural beauty of the town and the neighborhood. He also brought up the impact on property values, showing articles and surveys done nationwide that showed a decline in value the closer a property is to a tower such as this.
Commissioner Glenn Rudd stated that “There’s gonna be an impact on anything you do” and expressed that the impact on property values would be minimal compared to what the improvement to emergency communications would be worth.
Both commissioners Rudd and Roger McKenzie brought up that there are many cell towers in the county, and property values around them haven’t depreciated much at all, and have in fact increased, although neither of them cited specific examples.
No action was taken to change the location of the tower.
In another matter, Mayor Lara Edwards’ signature was needed on a state Community Development Block Grant engineering contract so it could go to the Department of Commerce for approval.
The contract covered the creation and improvement of storm drainage systems along Orange Avenue and Yellow Jacket Road. The contract was accepted in a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Michele Harden absent, and was signed by Mayor Edwards.
In another matter, Florida Rural Water should have its study results at the next general meeting, which should help the city government secure funding for the well improvements via a grant.
The city had a grant for $70,000 that was going to be spent on current projects, but those projects, which were involving improvements to a boat ramp on the Sopchoppy river, were estimated to cost about $600,000 more than that. The city commission decided to look for more funding, rather than attempt to cover that from the city’s budget.