Rapid development and population growth in a region causes a sudden demand for public utilities that cities and towns may not be ready to meet. The central Florida city of Groveland experienced a 189 percent population increase between 2000 and 2010, and it has hardly slowed down since, with a current population approaching 20,000. The city’s population is expected to triple or quadruple over the next 25 years. To help with the city’s water and wastewater operations, Groveland partnered with Woodard & Curran in 2019 and has since leveraged our in-house engineers, SCADA group, licensed safety professionals, and industry-leading technical experts—engaging several new programs and technologies to improve efficiency, address short- and long-term maintenance needs, optimize capital planning, plan for the city’s growth, and identify funding opportunities.
Capital Improvements Need Capital
Groveland recognizes the needs to improve its water, wastewater, and water reuse infrastructure to meet the demands of its residents and commercial businesses, while conscientious of the raw water supply and natural resources in Florida. Our team has helped the city identify and prioritize dozens of critical system improvements since assuming operations. To ease the burden on the city and taxpayers, our funding experts have positioned the city to secure $30.8 million for drinking water and $36.1 million for clean water low interest loans through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. This is part of a comprehensive strategy that our funding team has developed and is continuously evolving as new funding opportunities become available at the county, state, and federal level.
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and elected officials allocated $40 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal budget to fund water supply and water resource development projects through the FDEP, our team assisted Groveland stakeholders in applying for up to 50 percent cost share administered through the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) Alternative Water Supply matching grant program. Unsure what to expect, we helped submit three potential projects. We learned last month that Groveland received $1.1 million for the Lower Floridan Reclaim Well at the Sunshine Wastewater Treatment Plant and $2.2 million for the South Lake County Lower Floridan Wellfield Project. Combined with matching loan funds through SRF, these grants provide the city with $6 million toward secure water supply for area residents and businesses.
The Sunshine WWTP provides reclaimed water to the city’s northern distribution system, which is augmented by a well that provides potable water. The funds will allow Groveland to add a reclamation well from the Lower Floridan to reduce the demand on potable water from the Upper Aquifer. Since the water from this new well will not require treatment to potable standards, exploratory work isn’t necessary, and the WWTP has adequate space to add the well to its site.
The second project will fund the planning and design of a new water treatment plant (WTP) with increased storage and distribution capacity. The city anticipates construction will begin in late 2021 to 2022 and plans to secure SRF funds for the facility. The new WTP will be designed to accommodate treatment from the Lower Floridan wells as necessary to meet the demand.
Efficiencies Add Up
When we assumed operations, we equipped all employees with mobile devices enabling them to collect data in the field and access the newly implemented computer maintenance management software (CMMS) program to generate corrective maintenance (CM) and preventive maintenance (PM) work orders as they identify issues in the field. We used the new CMMS to catalogue more than 18,000 assets, including all the recommended maintenance schedules and items needed for staff to efficiently manage preventive, predictive, and corrective maintenance needs with critical spare parts inventory and preferred vendors.
While adopting new technology can be a large investment, the benefit of having an operations contract with Woodard & Curran is that we own and manage the licensing fees, which reduces the burden to our clients while still providing operational efficiency and improved operation and compliance reporting. The highly visual, user-friendly software creates charts and graphs at the click of a button. This helps easily identify areas for optimization, cost savings, and compliance.
Taken as a whole, our work operating and managing these utilities for Groveland resulted in a budgetary savings of approximately $35,000 in addition to securing grants and other sources of funding, allowing for the elimination of the general fund subsidy for the Water & Sewer Enterprise Fund. Ultimately, this positions Groveland for long-term financial health and the ability to thrive as its population and demands on public utilities continues to grow.