The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors met for a budget workshop Wednesday, July 24, with the primary goal of reallocating a larger percentage of its budget to drainage issues.
The workshop had been called by Supervisor Gary Dunkley to focus more of the budget on drainage, telemetry and equipment necessary to keep the district’s water systems functioning smoothly.
Acting District Administrator Jim Shallman said ITID has a budget they can work with in the current year to create additional financing for some of those projects. “We’re looking for direction from the board on when these projects ought to be done,” Shallman said.
Shallman also noted that ITID Vice President Carol Jacobs wanted to address staff reassignments and salaries.
Jacobs said she wants to eliminate some office positions in order to put more employees in the field; reducing the salary and scope of the vacant district administrator’s post and changing it into more of a manager’s position.
Shallman said he had met with Dunkley, newly appointed District Engineer Jay Foy and several residents to discuss developing a long-term plan for drainage improvements within the framework of the existing budget.
Foy, who stressed that his contract with ITID had not yet begun, said they were trying to figure out what the numbers in the budget actually meant.
“I’m really just in the first phase of investigating this, but in my opinion, you don’t have enough in there for canal maintenance,” Foy said. “You have a failing infrastructure, which is typical of all governments that have been around for any time. Culverts wear out, especially metal culverts. You’re going to have to start replacing them or you’re going to have road cave-ins and a whole bunch of problems.”
Jacobs agreed there are many culverts that need to be replaced.
Dunkley suggested that ITID implement a five-year plan and allot a certain amount of money each year for culverts, after identifying exactly which culverts need replacement based on their condition.
“I’m glad that the board is finally coming with a direction,” Dunkley said. “Being a business person, you can’t really move to a direction until you have identified it. We have finally identified that we are a water district and our primary goal is water management.”
Dunkley pointed out that the district’s $10 million budget is not a lot of money for what they need to do, and that drainage is more crucial for residents than parks.
“People are going to be pissed off with me, [but] I don’t live in a park,” Dunkley said. “My home is important, and it’s the most important thing. It’s what most people moved here for — our homes.”
Foy said that in order to properly address culvert replacement costs, ITID would have to take an inventory of everything it has, assign a life to each thing and develop an annual budget of when things need to be replaced.
“I’m not aware of that being done, but you have to have a full inventory,” he said. “It’s like the canals. You can see if they are or are not maintained. The culverts you can’t see, typically.”
A galvanized steel culvert, Foy said, will typically last 10 to 25 years, while reinforced concrete will last 50 years or more.
Resident Jean Edwards had sent an e-mail that she asked to be read into the record. Among her questions was that there had been at least $3.9 million in reserves for park expansion and the community center. She had heard that the account now has $3.2 million. She wanted to know where the $700,000 went.
Shallman explained that the fund started out as $4 million in 2011, and that in the 2011-12 budget year, almost $230,000 was spent on initial engineering contractual services, including surveying fees and park improvements.
“It was $3.7 roughly at the end of 2012,” Shallman said, adding that very little has been spent since then. “We started this year at $3.76 million, and the rest of what she is talking about is $347,000 in encumbrances. We haven’t spent the money. It’s purchase orders that have been done for the construction company, engineers, architects, but those can be liquidated.”
Edwards also asked whether an assessment has been done of the existing drainage infrastructure. Acting Director of Maintenance & Operations Henry Shaw said the system as it is now is operable, but it would take more time to get the exact information on what is needed and what the costs are to repair and maintain the system.
“Hopefully this is where Mr. Foy will come into play, come out to every one of our stations and control structures, and help me do a complete evaluation of each and every engine, each and every pump, control structure and so on,” Shaw said. “I welcome that.”
Shaw said one of the most important improvements needed is reliable telemetry. “The more we automate our gates, the less time a person has to go out and assure that it’s open,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few issues where we cannot rely on what we’re looking at on screen.”
Former Supervisor Mike Erickson stressed that infrastructure improvements can be made now with money from reserves, which could be replenished later.
Resident Alan Ballweg said the community center stands to be a tremendous expense that the district cannot afford now, pointing out that it is not just the cost of construction, but also an estimated $500,000 for annual maintenance.
Resident Patricia Curry said she thought the $3.4 million remaining in the park expansion budget should be allocated to drainage improvements. “We cannot afford a community center,” Curry said. “I would spend zero dollars on Acreage Community Park.”
Jacobs recommended putting the question on the next regular meeting’s agenda.
Dunkley said drainage has also become more pertinent with the recent release of Federal Emergency Management Agency maps that may require residents to purchase flood insurance.
Resident Sandra Love-Semande said there were several factors in play during the Tropical Storm Isaac flooding last year.
“It was not that our system failed,” Semande said. “It was that we did not have the proper staff on duty prior, during and after. That is my opinion… Also, we did not have the proper working relationship with the South Florida Water Management District to allow us to get that outfall when we needed it, and we did not have an engineering relationship with the proper people to continue the application to get additional outfall.”
Semande said that she does not believe the drainage system itself failed.
“I believe that our system works. Yes, it needs improvements,” she said. “I am very confident in the staff that we have, and I’m super-confident in our future engineer.”
ABOVE: The ITID Board of Supervisors.