Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis personally delivered a check for $3.5 million to the city of Lake Butler on Friday.
At the press conference held at city hall DeSantis said the money is a response to the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
It will help with the purchase of generators for six pump stations for Lake Butler’s wastewater collection and pumping system.
“This will serve every resident of the city,” DeSantis said about the town with a population of about 1,785 located in Union County.
Lake Butler Mayor Jack Schenck thanked DeSantis for providing the grant funds.
“This is going to help us quite a bit,” he said.
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Secretary Dane Eagle said many areas of the state are still in recovery from Hurricane Irma, which the National Hurricane Center named as the “fifth-costliest hurricane to hit the mainland United States, causing an estimated $50 billion in damage.”
The Category 4 storm struck on Sept. 10, 2017, and swept many inland areas not usually impacted by hurricanes. It traveled through the Caribbean, then went along Florida’s west coast and eventually cut into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, before dissipating over Tennessee.
“Areas still trying to recover from storms,” Eagle said, adding that the grant “goes a long way to make sure the city and county don’t have to suffer after future storms.”
Desantis agreed saying, “Irma was such a big one. It hit so much of the state, it was a unique event.”
He then said to Lake Butler city officials, “What else do you guys need, anything else we can do for you? Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
DeSantis said he has asked the State Legislature for $230 million to fund economic development and infrastructure including rural broadband.
“Large counties have gaps too,” he said.
Wastewater facility enhancement has become a statewide issue as growth has challenged capacity in rural areas throughout the state.
In November 2021 DeSantis, along with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton and Chief Science Officer Dr. Mark Rains, announced 103 wastewater and springs projects.
Twenty million dollars in grants were awarded from the Small Community Wastewater Grant Program to be used for “wastewater facility improvements in Rural Areas of Economic Opportunity and financially disadvantaged communities.”
Nearby cities of Archer, Newberry and High Springs are among recipients of $481 million in awards for improving water quality in Florida. Lake City was awarded $1,408,566 for wastewater improvements and Live Oak and the Suwannee River Water Management District were awarded $3,240,000 for septic to sewer and reuse.