Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Moves Ahead with Utility Plans; Fernandina: Amelia Waterworks at Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Moves Ahead with Utility Plans; Fernandina: Amelia Waterworks at Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

In the next step necessary to take over all water and sewer utilities on Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach commissioners decided Friday to pursue the condemnation of Amelia Island Utilities.

The privately owned utility company provides water and sewer to about 5,800 customers in the unincorporated areas of the island, which include the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island and the Amelia Island Plantation.

The city already is in negotiations to purchase Florida Public Utilities' water assets in the city. The $32 million deal is expected to go through by March.

But several parties are interested in acquiring Amelia Island Utilities, including Nassau County and the JEA. The utility company is owned by Florida Water Services, the largest investor-owned water and wastewater utility in the state.

But there could be a hitch for all the interested parties. Florida Water Services is set to sell all its water assets to a governmental authority created by two Panhandle cities. Officials representing Florida Water Services have said the parent company, Allete Inc. of Duluth, Minn., does not want to sell off its assets in piecemeal fashion. It wants to sell everything and get out of the water utility business in Florida.

According to a Dec. 20 Allete press release, a tentative closing date on the $492.5 million deal with Milton and Gulf Breeze is Feb. 14.

If the sale goes through, any condemnation action would be futile, said Douglas MacGibbon, the Palm Beach lawyer Fernandina Beach commissioners have hired to handle the proceedings. Florida law prohibits government entities from condemning property from other government entities, he said.

But considering the controversial and oft-delayed sale of the system, city staff members say beginning the condemnation process is a good idea. …

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