By Steve Plunkett
Following the lead of Ocean Ridge, Gulf Stream will ask its engineering consultants to estimate what it would cost to build a municipal sewer system.
Mayor Scott Morgan told town commissioners Sept. 13 that he had spoken with Ocean Ridge officials after state Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, in August warned Gulf Stream to expect a mandate from the state for septic-to-sewer transition in the future.
“This will be very expensive — I think the person in Ocean Ridge used the word ‘disastrously’ expensive,” Morgan said.
Gulf Stream evaluated its septic system “some 20 years ago,” the mayor said. “I think that it would be prudent for us … to engage our engineering firm, Baxter and Woodman, to bring that report from the ’90s up to speed, evaluate what it would take to transition the entire town over to sewer.”
Commissioner Joan Orthwein said the previous estimate was “astronomical.”
“I don’t know how the state can mandate to put that kind of financial burden on the individual. I just don’t see that,” Orthwein said.
Caruso “is willing to help us and other local towns within his district approach the state for funding to assist that transition,” Morgan said. “He stressed that there is a push in Tallahassee to advance this issue faster than most of us thought was what it would be.”
Ocean Ridge has paid its engineering firm to determine the scope of work and estimated price and a financial adviser to recommend ways to finance such a project, Morgan said. “That number could be very high,” he said.
About a third of the homes in Gulf Stream’s Core area connect to a private sewer system.
“The engineering firm should consider whether that sewer will continue as is or whether it would be brought into a new, modern, municipal-grade sewer that we would take responsibility for or whether it would be left in the condition it currently is and taken over by the town,” Morgan said.
New homes and those undergoing extensive renovations are required to connect to the private sewer system if they are close to it.
“And it’s really not designed as a municipal sewer. It wasn’t built that way,” Morgan said.
Town Manager Greg Dunham will attend an Oct. 7 septic-to-sewer workshop in Jacksonville hosted by the state Department of Environmental Regulation, as will Town Manager Tracey Stevens of Ocean Ridge.
“Because we know that it is going to be such a large, long-term, very expensive project, we’ve put together a citizens advisory board to help the staff do some of the heavy lifting,” said Ocean Ridge Commissioner Kristine de Haseth, who monitors Gulf Stream meetings as executive director of the Florida Coalition for Preservation.
Multifamily residences on State Road A1A north of Sea Road, which Gulf Stream annexed in 2011, have sewer service from Boynton Beach.
Orthwein said a conversion would hit hardest on the south end of town, which does not have either a private system or connections to Boynton Beach.
“So really you’re talking where the golf club goes down to George Bush [Boulevard],” she said.