County won’t be joining water authority

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Richard Owen, executive director of the Withlacoochee Regional Water Supply Authority, made a presentation asking the commissioners to consider rejoining the body. Levy County was a member of the authority, but dropped out in 1982. 

Owen said he was making the request at the direction of authority member Dennis Damato, a Citrus County commissioner. 

The authority currently encompasses Marion, Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties and municipalities in the region. Dues to join the authority are population based and cost 19 cents per individual. Levy's membership fee would be $7,664 per year.

Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5), who was on the commission in 2009-10 when the commission refused to join the Nature Coast Regional Water Authority based in Fanning Springs and deferred forming its own water authority, said the county has water resources and is reluctant to join groups because it could mean the loss of water to other areas. 

Stevens said, “Everybody is looking to Levy to participate because we have a lot of natural resources ourselves. We don't want to get in a position to paying dues here, paying dues there and end up sending our resources elsewhere.”

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) asked if the authority would remove the commission's authority over water in the county. Owen said the board could not usurp the county commission. 

“My concern is you get a large county or municipality and you get outvoted and you're out of luck,” Bell said. 

Owen said when a county runs out of water it stops growing. “There's nothing to prevent them from crossing the line for water,” now.

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) summed it up when he told Owen, “We have the best water, so it's not let's get Levy County in here so we can get that water.  I don't mind giving you the water; you can go buy a bottle.”