By Wes Wolfe
FloridaPolitics.com
April 15, 2022

Final numbers on the much-needed sewer project are not yet settled.

American Beach property owners who stepped up and prepaid their county assessments for a much-needed new water and sewer system will receive some of their money back, now that Nassau County obtained money from other sources to cover the cost.

“One thing that we wanted to note on this, is that at the request of the American Beach Water and Sewer Advisory Board, we’re bringing this forward to the (Commission) for approval,” Assistant County Manager Marshall Eyerman told the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners. “Part of this is the prepayments in full for the American Beach Assessment District, so we’re accelerating a refund of a portion of that today. That’s the $9,025 minus $749 times three years of assessments.”

There’s concern among those paying, however, that they’re not getting what they’re owed.

“The original calculation we received for assessments was approximately $9,800 for the full prepayment,” said Pam McCorkle Buncum of the American Beach Property Owners Association. “(It was) $234 for water, $515 for sewer, for a total of the $749 per year. However, with the grants eliminating the $234 water assessment, all property owners who paid the $749 annual assessment, to date, have overpaid by approximately this amount, which would result also in a refund.

“Therefore, based on this information, the $6,778 refund amount on the agenda tonight apparently is less than what the property owners are actually due, who prepaid the full amount. As I’ve stated before when coming before this Board, these water assessment numbers have changed numerous times throughout this process. Some of the changes are understandable — others, not so much.”

She reminded Commissioners to ask the right questions to make sure the sewer project proceeds in the best way possible.

“To the point, we will be looking at the final assessment amount, and we will be returning with an additional refund in the future,” Eyerman said. “This is the preliminary number to get the money back in their pockets as quick as possible for those refund amounts, then we’ll be coming back with more refined numbers in the future.”

County Manager Taco Pope advised Commissioners late last year to look to state revolving funds instead of federal American Rescue Plan Act money, which he expected would handle $9 million of the around $11 million estimated cost. The other roughly $1.85 million is on the way from the Legislature.

“I just want to thank the County Manager and Assistant County Manager for making this happen,” Commissioner John Martin said. “They were getting beat up pretty good at the American Beach Water and Sewer District Advisory Board meetings, and there were several homeowners — property tax payers — there that owned more than one piece of property. And correct me if I’m wrong, there was one gentleman who had $90,000 tied up in this.

“The folks that were speaking there and the folks that were on the Board there were adamant to push us and staff to make this happen as quickly as possible. Having said that, I think it’s great — it’s a positive thing to get the money back in the pockets of folks who put it out there, especially those who paid the whole … 20-year assessment.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan in February. In March, Commissioners agreed to accept a federal Water Infrastructure Investment for the Nation (WIIN) grant for American Beach, sending $2.3 million toward reducing property assessment rates.

The timeline for refunding the rest of the money to those who’ve paid is dependent on further number crunching, Eyerman said. The hope is those numbers will be in hand within the next two to three weeks.

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