The more than $ 88 billion state budget signed by Governor Rick Scott on Friday includes $ 400,000 to be used for the addition of gravity ducts on West 2nd Street in West Augustine.
The funding is a success for the City of St. Augustine, which in recent years has either slashed or vetoed its West Augustine sewage project sites from its budget. Scott vetoed $ 64 million from the budget, according to Florida Intelligence Service.
Those vetoes include projects in St. Johns County such as $ 1.5 million that would have been spent on widening County Road 244 and $ 250,000 on a roof repair plan for historic buildings in St. Augustine by the University of Florida is administered on the veto list.
Ordinarily, government funding for a project like the West Augustine sewers would require a 50 percent city match, but the funding fully covers the project, City Manager John Regan said.
“It means we’ll be able to build a new gravity sewer system in a street where there was never a gravity canal system,” Regan said.
The project will add a gravity sewer between South St. Johns and Duval Streets on West 2nd Street, which will allow people in that area to stop using septic tanks.
Greg White, a West Augustine community attorney, said residents supported the effort. Septic tanks can fail and leak sewage if not maintained. This is a problem in the region.
“It’s phenomenal, and it only shows when citizens come together for a common cause that makes it possible,” said White.
Regan said the project funding must be used within the state’s fiscal year, which is July 1 through June 30.
Without funding, the project might have taken years to complete, Regan said, later adding that he thanked the city’s legislative delegation for supporting the project.
City officials visited Tallahassee at that meeting to speak to lawmakers and the governor’s office about funding and other issues, Regan said. They also asked for less funding for West Augustine at this meeting than at previous meetings. The city’s strategy was to ask for a lower amount than in previous years as the state budget is expected to be tight, he said.
That session was not a total win for the city, which sought funding for a flood containment project around the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. That didn’t make it into the budget, Regan said.
A number of other projects in the city and St. Johns County have received state funding, including $ 450,000 for the restoration of the Summer Haven River and $ 1.5 million for the Stewart-Marchman Behavioral Healthcare Florida Assertive Community Treatment- Team. The team helps people with serious mental illnesses in St. Johns and Putnam counties.
The budget also includes $ 3.6 million to help local governments plan sea level rise, coastal resilience projects, and coral reef health through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s new Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative, according to the office of Governor.
St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said the city has been pleading for years to be more aware of sea level rise and coastal resilience. Among other things, Shaver is part of Resiliency Florida, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on getting people to plan for sea level rise and severe weather.
The city has already been the focus of sea-level rise studies that provided information that can help city officials plan for the future, and government funding opens the door for more cities across the state to prepare, Shaver said.
“Those resilience dollars are just incredibly important,” Shaver said.