Commission Delays Decision On ECUA Request To Take Property For Sewage Lift Station

January 19, 2018

The Escambia County Commission has decided to delay action on an Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) request to exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire property on Well Line Road in Cantonment for a sewage lift station.

During a Thursday meeting, commissioners instead expressed grave concerns about the use of eminent domain while expressing the desire to find an alternative solution.

ECUA said it has been unable to reach an agreement with Robert Ross, the owner of 1.2 acres of unimproved land at 400 Well Line Road.  The utility said the property is needed to replace and upgrade ECUA’s “Lift Station 143″. In order to take the property under eminent domain, ECUA must first obtain the approval of the Escambia County Commission.

The ECUA lift station on Well Line Road near Watson Avenue is outdated and deteriorated, in need of replacement and upgrades, according to ECUA. Plans call for it to potentially become a regional lift station. ECUA said the property is not large enough to accommodate a regional lift station and emergency storage tanks which may also be placed next to it.

A letter from ECUA Board Chair Lois Benson to the commission states that ECUA has been unsuccessful in negotiations to acquire the property.

Ross said he received a letter on four separate occasions wanting the property,  beginning with a half acre and finally the entire 1.2 acres with an offer of $2,000. He said he just “threw a number out there” of $40-50,000 in response.

“I know I am not the only one; our entire board takes eminent domain issues very seriously,”District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry said, adding that in five years on the county commission, there has only other been one other eminent domain consideration. That was for a property in the Wedgewood area related to a landfill.  He said commissioners are typically able to work with property owners to find a solution or find an alternative piece of property to make a project successful without using eminent domain proceedings.

Barry said he has seen little evidence of much real negotiation or communication between ECUA and Ross…not even a response to his $40,000 request.

“I do believe there is a willingness to negotiate, possibly. I don’t think it was his intent when he responded with the 40 or 50 thousand figure that it would be the last that he heard of it. He thought that they would say ‘well that is ridiculous but we think it is worth this’ and some back and forth would happen,” Barry said. “But that does not necessarily seem to have taken place.”

Barry said the county owns several parcels of land in the Well Line Road area, and the county could possible donate one or two acres to ECUA to use for their lift station.

ECUA  attorney Bradley Odom said ECUA does not take the use of eminent domain lightly and will work to increase the line of communication with Ross.

“ECUA takes it seriously; ECUA wants to do right,” Odom said. “We look at it (eminent domain) as a last resort, and we want to consier the options that are available.”

Commissioner Doug Underhill  said he wants to make sure all avenues are explored before he would consider the use of eminent domain.

The commission decided to table further action on the eminent domain request as other options are explored.

Under eminent domain, Florida law allows a governmental entity such as ECUA to seize property for the public good and provide full compensation to the owner. ECUA is a public utility, established as a government agency by an act of the Florida legislature.

Comments

10 Responses to “Commission Delays Decision On ECUA Request To Take Property For Sewage Lift Station”

  1. Other views on January 20th, 2018 6:11 am

    So, with constitutional eminent domain being so despised by the conservative (perhaps fascist) right, does this mean that eminent domain should not be used against Texas landowners along the Rio Grande who do not want a border wall running across and splitting their property?

    The US interstate highway system was built with eminent domain. Ask the former residents in Eastside under the I-110 viaduct about it.

    Let’s not get caught up in a militia movement or tea party mantra against eminent domain over a lift station. Eminent domain serves its purpose for public good. It can be abused and controversial. But it also serves a public purpose by protecting taxpayers against those who might stall the public need by attempting to stop public progress or make a substantial profit off of something not very valuable. It’s difficult to believe that an area the size of a lift station is worth $40 or $50K in Cantonment.

  2. Green Rocket on January 19th, 2018 2:39 pm

    Commissioner Barry (who represents me in District 5) seems to have the best idea about possibly giving ECUA an acre or two in the same general area. Why pay anything when you can possibly get something for free?

  3. Tabby on January 19th, 2018 12:40 pm

    This is stupid. First, I must say that anyone who believes the government cares about your well-being in any way is a fool. Now, they are interested in the perception that they care. That being said, the fact they only offered $2,000 is insane. Especially when the county owns parcels in the area that could be sold or donated. In 20 years, 70% of the population is projected to live in just 15 states. There is a plan in place to urbanize America. Be prepared for eminent domain to be frequently used within the next decade.

  4. CW on January 19th, 2018 12:09 pm

    $2,000? Seriously? What a joke!

  5. Grand Locust on January 19th, 2018 10:21 am

    An offer of two thousand dollars for over an acre…Who are the people who make these decisions? It just appears to be folks who are too lazy to do their jobs, or utter incompetency being masked by a request for theft from an American citizen. It is great to see elected officials who give credence to our Constitution.

  6. David on January 19th, 2018 9:52 am

    It would be cheaper to lobby and take back Escambia County from the ECUA…UNDER EMINATE DOMAIN BY ESCAMBIA COUNTY CITIZENS…then again…some need. BAIL MONEY

  7. Oversight on January 19th, 2018 9:34 am

    Eminent domain has a place and purpose. Plus, it was put in our Constitution more than 225 years ago as a way for the government to provide services for the public. However, in this particular case, it appears that ECUA has not negotiated in good faith considering the reported low ball figure offered and ECUA’s failure to follow-up with a real fair market value offer. I applaud the County Commission for deferring on ECUA’s rush for eminent domain until all reasonable avenues have been attempted and exhausted.

  8. Gary on January 19th, 2018 9:25 am

    BUILD THE LIFT STATION SOMEWHERE ELSE.

  9. SOUTHERNER on January 19th, 2018 8:22 am

    Beware of eminent domain, especially with government involved in so many things it has no business in.

  10. Carolyn Bramblett on January 19th, 2018 5:50 am

    The threat of “eminent domain” could not be more hostile. I have a 1/3 acre piece of property and I put it on the market for one year an asked $40,000. “Eminent Domain” is nothing more than theft–strong armed theft.





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