LIVE OAK — The City of Live Oak is receiving a helping hand in addressing stormwater issues within the city.

The city council unanimously approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation at its Feb. 11 meeting to address 17 drainage wells within the city. In all, FDOT will be providing nearly $2.4 million in federal funding through the Transportation Alternatives program for the project. The Suwannee River Water Management District help the city through the application process and procuring the funding.

Gabrielle Redfern, the Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency director, told the council that through the project, the wells will be cleared of obstructions and abandoned before new well systems will be constructed.

“This project…will provide a higher level of roadway sheeting and storage capacity to ensure our major arteries are safe and passable during rain events,” Redfern said.

Part of the process will include installing skimmers as well as filtering baskets on curb inlets and grate inlets in the new system.

Only three of the 17 wells chosen currently have skimmers and six of the wells have no treatment at all for the storm water, while eight others use retention as a method for treatment.

The agreement provides approximately $400,000 in funding this year as well as $421,500 in Fiscal Year 2021, $526,500 in FY 2022, $526,500 in FY 2023 and $501,500 for the final year.

“A big salute to the Water Management District, who took the lead in identifying this funding to getting it approved to be used in the City of Live Oak,” City Manager Ron Williams said.

Council President Mark Stewart and Councilman Bennie Thomas both questioned why there were no wells from their districts or neighborhoods included in the plan.

“They’re desperately needed over there,” Thomas said.

Andy Townsend, the city’s public works director, said that the areas selected have been surveyed and are in need of replacement. Most of the wells are close to U.S. Highway 129, U.S. 90 and State Road 51.

“They have been prioritized in a list,” he said, adding that it isn’t surprising for FDOT to want the funding it is providing to help its roads.

Williams added that this was just the first set of improvements and upgrades with more likely coming in the future fundings of the agreement.

City manager evaluation

The council’s annual evaluation of Williams will soon be conducted. After a lengthy process a year ago to finalize the evaluation form and process to be used, the council agreed to not change it this year.

Stewart told the councilors that the forms will be distributed, hopefully, early in March with the goal of discussing those in April, which is called upon in the city manager’s contract to line up with his evaluation date.

Councilman David Burch said he would like to have some of the budget numbers provided by Finance Director Joanne Luther in order to help with the evaluation.

“It’s nice to be able to wrap your hands around the numbers,” he said. “That’s a factor.”

Williams said he expects to have a conversation with the council members about his contract, including a longer term contract.

“I certainly have some ideas that I’d like to see considered as far as amendments,” he said.

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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