I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cleaning up the Creekwood Mess....

Creekwood Homeowners got a raw deal.  Together with the County and ECUA--they are in the process of cleaning up this mess.....

What happened at Creekwood?

The Creekwood Home Owners Association (HOA) got a raw deal:  They bought nice homes in what appeared to be a nice community in a nice part of Escambia County’s District 1.

But back in the early 2000’s when Creekwood was being developed, a very common community wastewater amenity was permitted by the county to be constructed and operated by the builder rather than the utility that manages wastewater.  This was the first step in a series of events that turned into a huge mess for these homeowners over the past few years.

This amenity in question is a sewage lift station.  What is a sewage lift station?  That’s what many of the homeowners in Creekwood wondered I’m sure—many did not even know what a lift station was--let alone the fact that they would eventually OWN one!  Here is a brief primer and video on sewer lift stations (just in case you were wondering :)  ).

So the problem was that after this sewage lift station was initially constructed in the early 2000’s by the builder and deemed a “private lift station” (no longer permitted under updated county ordinances--thank GOD)—as the years went by the system became obsolete, it broke down, and in 2012—when the company that constructed Creekwood declared bankruptcy and went insolvent (until they quickly re-emerged under a new corporate name and began building houses again in Escambia County)—it (the old lift station) became property of the Creekwood Home Owners Association!  

Congratulations Creekwood homeowners--you're now the owners of a wastewater pumping system (and guess what, it's failing)!!!!


Yes, they were quit claim deeded the failing lift station...And the problem became that the system was aging, and the utility that manages wastewater, ECUA, refused to take ownership of this lift station because it didn’t meet current, revised, “standards."  And it was/is deemed to be a “private” lift station.  So the HOA got slammed with ownership of a failing system and began to pay to keep it running. Not popular.  These owners simply wanted what made sense, they wanted ECUA to take the lift station off their hands before it totally and completely failed.  If the system failed—no toilets would work, drains would not function properly, and the neighborhood would have a major sewage spill on their hands. If that worst case scenario happened—not only would it be expensive, it would be messy and a potential health hazard.

The ECUA would only agree to take ownership and responsibility for this lift station if it was rebuilt to be in compliance with current (very high-tech, high dollar) standards---at the homeowners’ expense.

Naturally, this idea did not sit well with many of the homeowners…..but the HOA agreed to meet

 with the County and the ECUA to formulate a strategy to address this issue anyway.

The county engineer and staff from ECUA met with the HOA president about a year and a half ago, and a plan was formulated to have the county establish a Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) for the Creekwood HOA.  The MSBU process allows for the county to fund improvements in a specific geographic area, and then recoup these funds from the homeowners that received the improvement, over a multi-year timeframe-- via the levying of an additional amount on the property per year, per home in an amount that adds up to the total costs of the improvement.  In this case, the MSBU has been set at $625,000.00.

The process requires that the three parties to the MSBU (Creekwood HOA, Escambia County, and ECUA) sign an inter local agreement –which in and of itself was a challenge.

The first version that ECUA's attorney proposed was a garbage document-unnecessarily overly onerous on the homeowners, so I tore it up publicly at a meeting back in September.  Would you, if you were an HOA president, sign this garbage?  (look at 2.7 and especially 2.8 of this original proposed agreement.   would you really sign this??)

The second iteration that the county crafted as a response to the first garbage version was a well-written, very fair document that met with unanimous support at the county and the HOA-but could not garner the support of the ECUA.

Finally, after much back and forth between the attorney for ECUA and the Escambia county attorney, the last version of the inter local agreement was once again approved unanimously by the Escambia BCC.  This third draft represented a fair compromise that did not require the HOA to indemnify ECUA, the County, and the contractor—which was a ridiculous component of the first draft that I eventually ended up ripping to shreds because it was garbage.  The ECUA executive director has signed off on this latest agreement, and I'm told the Creekwood HOA will sign it as well.

Now that the revised agreement is moving forward- ECUA will be soliciting quotes from bidders to construct a new lift station for the homeowners at Creekwood— utilizing the monies from the County’s MSBU.

Hopefully the overall project will come in at a cost that is well below the $625,000 price-point.  ECUA will manage the construction and oversee this process to completion, at which point ECUA will finally do what the homeowners have wanted all along:  ECUA will take ownership and maintenance responsibility for this lift station and get the HOA out of the wastewater business once and for all.

We believe the construction process from this point could be completed by late spring or early summer, 2018. I'm sure the homeowners are ready to put this mess behind them.

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