Proposed purchase water authority

Executives with the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority currently operate out of this building in the Lakewood Ranch area of Manatee County, 45 miles from the operations plant in DeSoto County. The authority rents the space, and would like to buy the building. Charlotte County commissioners object to the purchase.

PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte County commissioners are not persuaded the regional water authority should buy a $2.1 million administration building in Manatee County.

The board voted unanimously last week to vote no on the purchase. That means they instructed the county’s representative, Commissioner Ken Doherty, to cast the one vote for the county this Wednesday.

The four-county board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority will meet then at Charlotte County’s administration building at Murdock Circle.

“I really have an issue with this,” Commissioner Christopher Constance said of the proposed purchase.

The regional authority supplies water from the Peace River to Manatee, Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties. The actual water treatment and supply facilities are located in DeSoto County near the Charlotte County line.

The authority currently rents administrative offices in the Lakewood Ranch section of Manatee County, 45 miles from the plant. It is this building that the authority wants to buy rather than keep renting.

Initially, commissioners discussed other options such as cheaper buildings. In the end, however, several board members asserted that the water authority administration should be located in DeSoto at the plant site or nearby.

“I have an issue as to why they’re not physically located out at the operations facility,” Commissioner Bill Truex said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me to have a satellite executive office, and maybe it’s out of convenience for proximity for (executive director) Mr. Lehmans. I think that being amongst the facility that you’re in charge of is extremely important for properly managing the whole process as well as the employees there.”

Constance agreed.

“I really don’t want to look at other options,” he said. “We need to have the site at the plant.”

Doherty said he will attempt to postpone a vote on a purchase in favor of spending more time to look at options. The board is made up of commissioners from each of the four counties. They meet quarterly.

Water authority staff could not be reached for comment. Water authority reports, however, indicate that the cost to build at the DeSoto plant would be $3 million. The report states also that building in DeSoto could limit future expansion options, where the need for a new reservoir is anticipated.

“There’s plenty of land out there,” Constance said. “The majority of the work that gets done is at the plant ...the employees are at the plant. This is a utility that’s going to continue to operate for decades to come.”

Email:ecalvert@sun-herald.com

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