AVON PARK - It could very well be a cooperative project between Highlands County officials that could help save lives in a time of a crisis.
A resolution between the City of Avon Park and the Sun 'N Lake of Sebring Improvement District was approved by the district Jan. 13 that would have a potable water interconnect installed to provide Avon Park and the district drinking water during an emergency outage.
The district provides potable water to Florida Hospital Heartland and the mutual agreement would provide the regional hospital with water during times of emergency to keep it operational. In return, the district could provide water to Avon Park if the need arises.
Julian DeLeon, Avon Park city manager, said the idea for the interconnect began while he served as Sun 'N Lakes' public works director from 2007 to 2009. He said there is only one water treatment plant for the approximately 12-square mile community of about 7,500 full-time residents northwest of Sun 'N Lake Boulevard and U.S. 27. If that went out of service, he said the result could be disastrous for residents and the hospital in particular, and was "cheap insurance" to ensure potable water service is maintained during emergencies.
"If that goes down, which is very unlikely but there's always the possibility, then there would be a service disruption to the hospital and a hospital cannot operate efficiently without potable water," he said. "I think that this partnership is mutually beneficial to the city and the district to minimize any service disruptions during emergencies."
After DeLeon began work with Avon Park Sept. 28, 2009, he met with Michael Wright, Sun 'N Lake general manager, about the concept and they agreed to work together.
In November, the district's five-member board of supervisors passed the inter-local agreement for the interconnect. In the agreement, the connection calls for the installation of a 12-inch waterline in the area of Davis Citrus Road and Valnera Street to run under the frontage road and connecting to Avon Park's existing 12-inch line on the east side of U.S. 27.
The design, permitting, construction and materials are provided by the district under the supervision of Sebring's Polston Engineering Inc.
Clinton Howerton, Jr., Polston's project engineer, said the mostly PVC plastic waterline would be about 500 feet long and be surrounded by steel casing, which is the major cost of the approximately $150,000 project.
Funding for the interconnect is coming from the district and Howerton said the project should be completed by April 1.
"This is important for reliability and redundancy. Should something happen in either system (Avon Park or Sun 'N Lake), then we'll have the capabilities to provide a back-up supply," he said.
In the resolution, it states the water flow will be monitored by an enclosed meter on district property with access to the city and district, which will monitor meter readings and provide photographic evidence of readings to the city each month.
"So, if either of us is in need of help, we just open a valve," said Michael Wright, Sun 'N Lake general manager. "This allows us to open and our biggest customer (the hospital) doesn't run out of water."
In addition to the City of Avon Park and Sun 'N Lakes' interconnect, the Placid Lakes community in southwest Lake Placid and the Town of Lake Placid have shared an approximately 30-foot potable water line since 2003, said Gary Freeman, the town's director of utilities.
The Florida Interlocal Cooperation Act statute of 1969 authorized municipalities to provide services and facilities through cooperative agreements.