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Windermere Observer Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 1 year ago

Windermere mayor spearheads West Orange Water Initiative

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Windermere mayor Gary Bruhn has been leading a regional initiative to get state approval for $10 million in funding for an ambitious project to bring sewer to Windermere, Ocoee and Oakland.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

If all goes as planned, the first steps of a goal to install sewer lines in Windermere, Ocoee and Oakland will see significant progress starting March 2017, during the state’s next legislative session.

Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn has made it his mission to bolster cooperation between himself and the leaders of Ocoee and Oakland to encourage collaboration on a special project. The special project, if successful, would bring infrastructure to all three municipalities that will make a transition to sewer and public water possible.

“I gathered up the various cities and asked them if they would like to become involved,” said Bruhn, describing how he began the project. “Instead of working as specific cities, I proposed we work together as a region and create, what I call, the West Orange Water Initiative.”

After several meetings and discussions held over the past two months, leaders of all three municipalities agreed to join in the regional initiative, which Bruhn believes will give them an advantage in their quest to obtain $10 million in funding via the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative passed in 2014.

The 2014 amendment, also known as Amendment 1, passed with a 75% majority vote. It designates a percentage of revenue from documentary stamp taxes for use in land-acquisition purchases and conservation of water resources and environmental lands.

But as is usually the case with state funding, supporters will first have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops. Bruhn believes it is entirely possible, however, especially after witnessing Oakland’s triumph in obtaining $1 million for a sewer expansion project after three tries.

“I took a look at how Oakland had been very successful in moving forward with receiving these appropriations, and I gathered up the other cities to take a lesson from Oakland’s playbook,” Bruhn said. “And of course, Oakland is on board with us, and I’m trying to expand upon what Oakland’s been very successful at doing in the last few years.”

If granted the extra money from Amendment 1, Oakland plans to use it to expand its sewer system for commercial enterprises, while Ocoee intends to upgrade the infrastructure to support sewer. Bruhn, on the other hand, hopes to use the money to place water main lines throughout Windermere.

“Only 30% of people in Windermere are on public water,” Bruhn said. “Everybody else is pumping water from the aquifer; they have their own wells for water. And my goal would be to try and expand water main lines throughout the town. And people, if they so desire, could hook up to public water.”

Installing additional water main lines would benefit Windermere residents, because it would be cheaper to connect to public water if the main lines are near their home,” Bruhn said.

“People spend thousands and thousands of dollars just to run the water line to their home,” he said. “So, the goal, for me, would be to give people that option, if they would like to go on public water. We would have water mains running throughout various areas and it would be cheaper to hook up.”

There’s no guarantee the bill will receive Tallahassee’s stamp of approval, but Bruhn remains optimistic. With nothing to lose, receiving just a portion of the requested funding would help them start making the necessary changes and improvements he wants to see.

“I’d be elated,” Bruhn said of how he’d feel if the bill passed. “But one thing to remember is this is just the first phase. This bill, this money is available for 10 years. And it’s billions of dollars. If we fail on this first attempt, we will certainly try again. And this money is earmarked for this kind of thing for nine more years.”

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Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]

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