Fellsmere to be included in ‘utilities summit’ next week

By Debbie Carson, Online Editor

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — County officials want to sit down with three municipalities, including Fellsmere, next week to discuss ways to make the water utilities more efficient.

The county was successful Tuesday night in bringing Vero Beach to the table to discuss the possibility of merging the two governments’ water systems. But the county’s plans for Fellsmere are different.

The county and Fellsmere officials have been talking for about a year to come up with a plan to provide water services to the outlying areas of the city along the Interstate 95 corridor.

On Oct. 15, the city will join the Town of Indian River Shores and Vero Beach in a joint utilities meeting. Vero Beach city leaders reluctuantly voted to attend the meeting despite concerns about the timing and how the invitiation was handled.

“There are clear economies of scale,” said County Utilities Administrator Erik Olson when it comes to having the county provide service to outer Fellsmere.

City Manager Jason Nunemaker agrees.

“It just makes sense to collaborate there,” Nunemaker said, noting that the city and county have not worked out the details for the possible collaboration.

“The logic of it is that our lines are there,” Olson added, which means the city would not have to install its own water lines at a cost to Fellsmere residents. The county already provides waste water services for the city.

In terms of participating in the utilities summit on Oct. 15, Nunemaker said that it would serve as a way for the city to get information about the county’s future plans for providing water to the county’s residents.

He added that he is interested to see how Vero Beach and the county work together.

“We can learn from the process,” Nunemaker said, adding that the City of Fellsmere might have to consolidate services with the county sometime in the relatively distant future as water supply demands change.

Currently, Fellsmere does not compete with Indian River County in terms of water supply as the city draws water from the surficial aquifer while the county pulls from the deeper Floridan aquifer. That might change as more people move in and need water.

“We’re pretty far down the road on a decision,” Nunemaker said.

The city’s mayor and at least two council members plan to attend the Oct. 15 meeting, which will be held prior to the Fellsmere City Council’s evening council meeting.

Nunemaker said that he expects to mention the utilities meeting during the council meeting but no decisions or votes are expected.

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