Sarasota County commissioners were given a broad-based look at the county’s water system last week as they prepare to take on a $40 million expansion of its 24,000-acre Carlton Water Treatment Facility.
Theresa Connor, Sarasota County director of environmental utilities, told commissioners at their March 28 regular meeting their water program has evolved from weather and drought patterns.
“We are trying to learn from the past and manage weather patterns better,” Connor said.
Although Connor said the county water program is “in pretty good shape,” commissioners are wary of rising debt that today sits at $380 million.
“I’m seeing projected revenues going up, but how do we get a steady decrease in debt bond service?” asked Commissioner Joe Barbetta. County staff said the debt will decrease as the county gains more water users and pays down debt by paying it off and swapping out some debt with lower interest rates.
The most looming water issue is the county’s Carlton Water Treatment Facility, which is heading toward a 20-year expansion that could cost as much as $40 million.
County officials say the expansion is critical because of projected water deficits in 2025 when a contract to connect with Manatee County water supplies is set to expire.
Barbetta urged staff to make sure conversations were ongoing with the Peace River water authority and asked staff to consider selling Carlton to Peace River. But staff said debt still owed for the construction of the Carlton plant and a lack of available cash would make such a purchase impossible.