Possible Sewer System For The City Of Archer
ARCHER - It's a little town trying to do big things. In a corner on the western part of Alachua County you can find Archer-- a small city struggling to attract businesses and develop new jobs. The city hopes a new wastewater treatment plant can do just that. But with a 20% poverty rate in the city some residents won't be able to afford the extra costs.
After you've flushed the toilet, you probably don't think about where your business goes but city officials in archer have been thinking about it for almost 20 years. Archer City Manager Al Grieshaber Jr. said, "In 1995 the city of archer realized that they had a challenge with poorly maintained and leaking septic tanks."
Fast-forward to today and that challenge continues. A private contractor evaluated 100 properties and found 35 with septic tanks they deemed to be failing. Then the Alachua County Health Department tested those tanks and found 10 were a sanitary risk. "Worst case scenario a resident had a pump in the tank, just pumping it onto the ground so that it wouldn't back up onto his house," Anthony Dennis the Environmental Health Director at the Health Department said.
Dennis said faulty septic tanks can transmit diseases. While these residents were issued a notice of violation, many of them don't have the money or the motivation to repair their tanks. Especially since there aren't any laws requiring maintenance. In fact, Alachua is one of the counties in Florida that opted out of septic tank inspections every 5 years. The state legislature developed that plan to protect springs from pollution.
Chris Bird the Environmental Protection Director at the Health Department said, "The problem with septic tanks is that they're designed to take out harmful bacteria, they are not designed to remove nitrogen and the big problem we are having with the springs and the river is nitrogen pollution."
This is one of the reasons why the City of Archer wants to ban septic tanks altogether and get a centralized system for sewage disposal instead. This sewer system would collect wastewater, treat it and reuse it for agricultural purposes. The project would cost $12.5 million, money the city doesn't have. That's why Archer is asking for $5 million from the state this legislative session.
"With our own treatment plant, we feel that the county will have an economic boost of close to 16 million. And the city will have an economic boost, of close to 6 million. It's good for the City of Archer and it's good for Alachua County," Grieshaber said.
Archer's possible sewer system could be compared to Newberry's. While Newberry's system has been up and running since 1975, it recently underwent a major expansion. Blaine Suggs the Utilities Director for Newberry said, "I am proud to work with a city that is proactive and planning for future needs and potential growth of this area."
Newberry's latest expansion was partly funded by a "capacity development fee" established in the early 2000's for all new homeowners. Archer on the other hand, isn't planning to charge any upfront costs- just a monthly charge for using the sewage system. "But they're talking about increasing your price. So I would say no, I would rather keep my septic tank," Pamela Butler a homeowner in Archer said.
A utility bill from a septic tank user in Archer shows a balance of $16.47 for water. With a new sewer system, this resident would have to pay an additional $50 a month-- meaning their bill would total $66.47. "I cannot afford 50 or 60 more dollars a month because I am on a fixed income," Butler said.
Elizabeth Johnson, also a resident in Archer said, "I don't think a lot of peoples can pay for it, even myself cause it's going to be too high… but we really need it cause we need that add-on to Archer because Archer don't grow."
A kangaroo gas station, a Mexican restaurant and a save-a-lot make up Archer's commercial strip. Most businesses want to move into a city with existing infrastructure and the city says a new sewer system promises just that-- growth. Growth some people wouldn't mind paying for. "We don't got nowhere to go, nothing to do, nowhere to eat. We have to leave here and go up there in Gainesville to the Waffle House, Burger King… and I mean we've got to travel 9 or 10 miles to get something to eat and it costing." Willie Boykin Sr. another Archer homeowner said.
If Governor Rick Scott approves the funding request on July 1st, the Archer City Manager says the project will break ground the next day. Grieshaber said, "Life is good in the City of Archer… I always say that. Life is good in the City of Archer!" Whether that will make life even better for the residents of Archer, only time will tell.
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