Hawthorne, county discuss wastewater project

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a joint meeting with the Hawthorne City Commission on Tuesday evening to discuss local priorities like wastewater facilities and opioid programs.

Both commissions stressed collaboration moving forward and finding new ways to help each other. One of Hawthorne’s biggest projects would be improving and expanding its wastewater capabilities.

During the meeting, Hawthorne Commissioner Matt Surrency brought up the city’s efforts to repair and expand its wastewater facilities. The wastewater project would cost around $10 million and the city also wants to extend its utilities to reach the Hawthorne Industry Park operated by the Weyerhaeuser Company.

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Surrency said to do the whole thing would cost around $13 million.

Once there, the site can pull in new companies and economic development, but currently, Surrency said the city is stuck in a chicken and egg scenario. New development won’t commit until utilities are available and the utilities can’t get out there until there’s a commitment.

The new development could provide high quality jobs for the Hawthorne community and move Hawthorne toward more financial stability and independence.

“This would be a game changer for Hawthorne where we’re not asking and trying to be a beggar so to speak,” Surrency said. “That we’re actually able to sustain ourselves and able to look around and say ‘Ok, we’ll now we can help the surrounding areas even more.’”

When talking about the county’s proposed one-cent surtax on the ballot for November, commissioners asked if Hawthorne could use its share for wastewater.

Alachua County Attorney Sylvia Torres said the definition for public facilities, included in the ballot language, is very broad and likely covers wastewater.

The county commissioners said to add it to the minutes that the infrastructure half of the surtax would cover the wastewater upgrades.

According to the county backup documents, the one-cent surtax will raise an estimated $491 million over its 10-year course.

At Tuesday’s meeting, BOCC Commissioner Ken Cornell said 30% or more of the money raised will come from residents of other counties. Alachua County is the largest employer of almost all adjacent counties, meaning many workers travel into the county and spend money.

“If you believe that you should not be subsidizing those that don’t live in your county, then you’re for this tax because the folks that are outside the county are using your infrastructure and not paying for it,” Cornell said.

He said the impact on each county resident would be approximately $57 a year.

However of the estimated $491 million raised, Hawthorne is slated to receive .39% of the funds which totals $1.8 million over the entire 10-year surtax lifespan. That percentage comes from the state default based on population. 

The other estimate per city break down as follows: 

  • Alachua County—$280 million; 56.98%
  • Gainesville—$174.1 million; 35.45%
  • Alachua—$13.6 million; 2.76%
  • Newberry—$9 million; 1.8%
  • High Springs—$8.6 million; 1.7%
  • Hawthorne—$1.9 million; 0.39%
  • Archer—$1.6 million; 0.32%
  • Waldo—$1.2 million; 0.25%
  • Micanopy—866,000; 0.18%
  • La Crosse—$511,000; 0.1%

The commissioners also spoke about how cities can work with the county on an opioid initiative. Newberry has started a coalition through interlocal agreements, asking small municipalities to add $10,000 while Gainesville and Alachua County contribute $50,000 each.

Hawthorne declined to add the $10,000, instead offering in-kind services like facility space to cover its portion.

“Although it’s very noble, it just wasn’t feasible for us,” Jacquelyn Randall, mayor of Hawthorne, said. “We didn’t think it would be responsible of our ARPA funds knowing the egregiousness of what we have to face.”

Cornell told the city to meet with the Children’s Trust of Alachua County who is also contributing in-kind services by coordinating the effort. Cornell, who also serves on the board of the children’s trust, said he imagined the children’s trust would accept in-kind services for Hawthorne’s portion.

The commissions mentioned that some money for opioid programs will soon trickle down from state litigation. The county is scheduled to receive $2 million over a span of 18 years for litigation already finished.

Hawthorne City Manager Wendy Sapp said Hawthorne had received $600 for its share of litigation so far.

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