Water and sewer line plan takes shape

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Callahan town officials prepare to set a timetable for future expansion along U.S. 301.  In January 2019, the Callahan Town Council authorized Mayor Marty Fontes to sign a contract with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to receive a $5 million grant. The project includes the...

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Callahan town officials prepare to set a timetable for future expansion along U.S. 301. 

In January 2019, the Callahan Town Council authorized Mayor Marty Fontes to sign a contract with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to receive a $5 million grant. The project includes the installation of
water and sewer lines from the town to the Crawford Diamond Industrial Site about 5 miles away. The $4.5 million balance of the nearly $10 million project will be funded by Florida Power and Light. 

“One of the deals that we have is that it would cost the town zero dollars and zero cents,” Fontes said.  

Town officials are working toward completing engineering and construction plans.  

Because it is too costly to put a wastewater treatment plant at the site, Fontes said that a water plant will be built when an occupant arrives. The town will have about 7 acres on the site. 

The town will utilize its existing wastewater treatment plant, with lines running from the industrial site. 

“It will have two wells hooked up to it, a 300,000-gallon tank and chlorinator, it will provide the water,” Fontes said. 

Having the infrastructure in place before a vendor arrives, makes the property more desirable, according to Fontes.

“This is an international search for industrial manufacturing companies,” the mayor said. “We’ve been involved with talking with people from all over the world, looking to come to Florida and to come here, but we’re also competing with the rest of the United States. It’s very competitive. They don’t want to see a field. They want to see infrastructure.” 

He added, “A gas line is going out there. FPL is putting the electric out there and so when we get the water and wastewater heading out there, they know that everything is going to be there.” 

When the plan was presented to Nassau County officials, it wasn’t what they envisioned, according to Fontes. 

“We told FPL that we would spend the $5 million to do what we’re going to do – the wastewater setup and get a water line from where the future water plant will be built, by other people’s money down to U.S. 301,” Fontes said. “So now there is water in western Nassau County and wastewater in western Nassau County, both getting started and terminating at Crawford Diamond, so it fulfills our obligation.” 

The capacity would allow hookups for residential, commercial and industrial entities along the highway. Part of the agreement between FPL and the town is that the utility will assume the responsibility of providing 800 jobs within a 10-year period. 

If they only get 600 jobs, FPL would be responsible for paying some of the funds back to the Department of Economic Opportunity, according to Fontes. 

“Right now we’re waiting to hear back from the DEO,” he said. “It could be a no deal with the DEO. The DEO may end up with the $5 million back. We have not lost any money. It might set everything back a little bit. The DEO has been extremely helpful.”

Fontes would like to see something come to fruition at the industrial site before his term ends in 2022.

kcolgrove@nassaucountyrecord.com