The city expects to begin building Phase 1 of the North Santa Rosa Regional Water Reclamation Facility in East Milton later this year, but in December the Santa Rosa County Commission postponed a key vote transferring property the city needs to dispose of treated wastewater from the new facility. A group opposed to the proposed plant site are organizing residents to speak against the county’s deeding the property to Milton when the county commission reconsiders the matter at its meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at the County’s Administrative Complex on Caroline Street.
The proposed resolution reads, in part, that the city is “fully committed” to the project “at the site owned by the City…based on the permits in hand and applied for, the grants and loans received, and the City funds committed to the project.”
The resolution also asks Santa Rosa County to honor its memorandum of agreement to transfer the 100-acre parcel to the city and to “expedite” the transfer of the property.
Despite residents’ concerns, the city has all but one of the approvals necessary from funding and permitting authorities to begin building Phase One of the project. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection currently is considering the city’s application to dispose of 1.256 million gallons of treated wastewater per day using rapid infiltration basins and a spray field on a 100-acre county-owned property – land the county already agreed to give the city in exchange for guaranteed capacity at the wastewater facility.
FDEP has ordered Milton to stop discharging treated wastewater from its existing Municipal Street treatment plant into the Blackwater River by the end of December 2025. City staff repeatedly have warned residents and councilmembers that any change of plans now will jeopardize about approved grants and permits, ensuring the FDEP deadline won’t be met and dramatically increasing the project’s estimated $70 million price tag. Phase One, construction of the plant and the initial effluent disposal system, is expected to cost more than $48 million.
Critics believe the proposed site, on undeveloped property between Santa Rosa County Jail and the Blackwater River upstream of the city, creates unacceptable ecological and environmental risks. They argue that better locations for the plant are available and that most, if not all, of the grants and permits can be transferred to a new site – a claim city staff have refuted.
The Milton City Council will meet as the executive committee beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, at City Hall, 6738 Dixon St. The meeting’s agenda also includes a presentation from Smoke Free Santa Rosa and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) asking the city to ban smoking at all public outdoor properties and reviewing an application to have the city declared a Florida Trail Town.