Osceola buys chunk of private water utility
APOPKA -- It's a done deal.
Seven Florida municipalities, including Osceola County, have coughed up millions to buy
pieces of the state's largest private water utility, Florida Water Services Corp.
"The negotiations have been going on for a very long time," says Lonnie Groot,
an attorney for Palm Coast. "But, in the past four months, things really picked up
The road to this deal -- which involves just half of the utility -- is littered with two
failed purchase offers, lawsuits, a government audit, legislative action, a gubernatorial
veto and a legal debate over the jurisdiction of the Florida Public Service Commission.
The deal killer came earlier this year when a Leon County Circuit Court ruled that Florida
Water Services would have to get approval from Florida's Public Service Commission, which
regulates utilities, for any sale to a quasi-governmental authority.
Instead, the utility's parent company terminated the sale, and moved to sell pieces of the
utility to those cities and counties already using it.
Each municipality will issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to make their purchases. All expect
all of the deals to close before the end of the year.
More deals are to come.
Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the company, says about 80 systems remain in the
utility. Although the company hopes to sell them to one buyer, it is talking to multiple
One of those is JEA, the quasi-governmental Jacksonville utility authority handling
electric, water and sewer systems there. It has been negotiating the purchase of Florida
Water Services' system in Duval County.
The system, which serves 5,488 water and 5,009 sewer customers, is expected to sell for
roughly $25 million.
Other individual buyers include Marion and Nassau counties, as well as Amelia Island. All
completed condemnation proceedings and purchased their utilities for $22.3 million, $17.2
million and $9.8 million respectively.
Additionally, Volusia County is working to purchase the portion of the utility serving
According to David Byron, a spokesman for Volusia, county and city officials are working
out the legal fine points. Says Byron, "I believe we will see a deal soon, and
Deltona will end up
owning the system."