Holley-Navarre Water System officials are looking at working with, or possibly acquiring, the county’s Navarre Beach Water and Sewer, and for the life of us we can’t figure out why.
Holley-Navarre is a member-owned facility. Navarre Beach Water and Sewer is county-owned. Strike one.
Holley-Navarre has been losing money since purchasing Hidden Creek Golf Course. Strike two.
And at a recent legislative priority workshop, District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson said the Navarre Beach utility needs an $18 million waste water treatment plant update. Strike three.
Why on earth would HNWS want to pick up a utility that’s already $18 million in the hole. That $18 million is the county’s problem, not the members of Holley-Navarre Water System – members who already think the rates are too high.
These are tentative discussions at the water system level. We’ve been told the county is not yet involved.
But should it get to that point, we think the HNWS has a responsibility to its 14,000 or so members to explain a) why it wants to buy the county’s problem, and b) pay to fix that problem.
The 3,000 to 6,000 customers for the beach utility won’t be able to offset that kind of money. So who ends up paying? Why are we spreading an $18 million problem over members of both utilities when the issue belongs to the county? Doesn’t it make more sense for the county to pick up the tab? Then maybe HNWS could move forward with a possible acquisition. But until then, I doubt the members of HNWS would want to touch this “deal” with a 10-foot pole.
Billy Sublett, executive director of HNWS, told Navarre Press the system is interested in working with the beach utility because of “environmental concerns” expressed by some residents. Navarre Beach Water disposes effluent into the Sound – we should all be concerned about that – but that’s the county’s problem to solve. Not members of the private water company.
And if HNWS took over the beach utility, how exactly would it save the day? The effluent still needs to go somewhere, so if not in the Sound, will the utility build a pipe from the beach to the mainland? And once it makes it to the mainland, then what?
Until HNWS can answer those questions, we don’t think we should be entertaining such an idea much less handing the county proposals to handle the county’s problem. This is Santa Rosa County’s problem to fix, not a Navarre problem – yet.