01/19/2012 Guest Column, Lisa Algiere, city manager

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Purchase of utility systems vital for city’s future

In 2004, the citizens of Dunnellon developed a strategic vision with specific goals. One is attracting industry to the airport to generate good paying jobs and increase the city’s tax base. A key element in attracting business and industry is a strong infrastructure.
It is important for the city to engage in economic development rather than hope that something will happen.
Today, our children’s expectation of returning to Dunnellon to work and raise a family after college or career training is dismal. We need to prepare for an economic recovery and aggressively recruit industry to our community. Currently, we are partnering with Marion County, EDC, and the Chamber of Commerce on economic development.
The purchase of Rainbow Springs’ utility strengthens the city’s system and helps promote economic development. Many benefits are realized from this purchase.
— The customer base doubles minimizing necessary rate increases.
— A sewer connection can be made between Rio Vista and Rainbow Springs.
— Interconnecting the systems will create redundancy.
— Future expansion to connect riverfront properties onto sewer is possible.
— Available capacity is increased.
The city uses a tiered rate structure to encourage water conservation as required by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). Last year, the rates were adjusted that resulted in a discount to low volume users. These customers use water primarily for necessary domestic use. High volume users pay a higher rate. Most of these customers irrigate their lawns and replenish their pools. This is a discretionary use.
Water conservation is important to our water quality and availability. We all have a responsibility to conserve water and be good stewards of the environment.
Because the tiered rates are a change for the Rainbow Springs customers, the city council established a discounted rate structure for the next five years. It begins with a 20 percent discount and adjusts 5 percent a year until the rates are equivalent to what all other customers are paying.
Residents outside the city limits are charged an additional 25 percent surcharge primarily for two reasons.
First, it goes toward retiring the debt service and second it builds a reserve account necessary for repairs and capital improvements.
With the discount on the rates and the added surcharge, Rainbow Springs’ customers will pay the same amount as Dunnellon residents.
This acquisition has caused many rumors to circulate.
First, the city is not annexing Rainbow Springs or the Woodlands.
Second, the city has no plans to expand into the Woodlands.
Third, the city will not meter privately owned irrigation wells.
And last, Greenlight is funded separately from the water and sewer utilities.
Residents in Rainbow Springs have expressed anger about this acquisition. Some have even threatened to boycott Greenlight and potentially other businesses in Dunnellon. I hope they will reconsider.
Greenlight will provide state of the art communication services at an affordable price. The initial area of service includes the city of Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs, Woodlands, River Retreat and Sateki Village.
By this summer, we will reach State Road 200. The next phase includes Rainbow Lakes Estates, Lake Tropicana and Citrus Springs.
We have received many requests for service and look forward to serving the greater Dunnellon area.
Declining tax revenues in a sluggish economy has created financial challenges for the city. We cannot continue providing the level of service to our taxpayers unless we generate new revenue streams or raise ad valorem taxes. This has brought to light the importance of implementing our strategic vision.
Greenlight will generate new revenue and purchasing Rainbow Springs’ utility strengthens our infrastructure.
Although Rainbow Springs’ residents make note that they are not part of the city and want to boycott Dunnellon, they should understand that a vibrant and prosperous business district is vital to all surrounding neighborhoods.
A blighted, boarded up commercial district brings down property values, attracts crime and becomes an undesirable place to live while a successful commercial district has the opposite effect.
Lisa Algiere is the city manager for Dunnellon. She can be reached at lalgiere@dunnellon.org.