Gateway Sun

The harder you look for problems, the more problems you’re going to find.

Just as many people have feared, Gateway’s lakes are proving to have more issues than were initially suspected.

“We have a two-headed monster here, and I think this last month we’re beginning to see some signs of it,” said Gateway resident Ed Tinkle, who has been volunteering his time on the Lake Bank Restoration Project.

Continued Tinkle, “We all know about the [lake bank] erosion, that’s been in the spotlight. But the water quality issue is coming up. This month, after the first three months of doing tests, is the first time we’ve gone from good to fair to poor on water quality on two of our basins.”

Tinkle, who is also the HOA President of Gateway Greens, said he believes that the frequent and heavy rainfall in the area could be a contributing factor to the deteriorating water quality. Tinkle’s last sample was taken on September 14, 2015 but those results had not yet been analyzed.

All of this information was shared at the September 17, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District.

The GSCDD had previously ranked all 69 of Gateway’s ponds based on how badly their banks had eroded. The district determined at that time that 49 lakes needed to be fixed. Tinkle wants the district to scrap that list and re-visit every lake so that the GSCDD can form two new, separate priority lists: one list for erosion and the other for water quality.

Tinkle noted that he discovered one of Gateway’s contractors, Aquagenix, had taken water quality samples on behalf of the district in November 2013 and November 2014. According to Tinkle, both of those tests also showed water quality issues.

There is one thing the residents can do to help, said Tinkle.

“Quit throwing your dog waste down the sewers.”

Good advice. If you’re throwing your dog’s poop in the sewers so you don’t have to bring it home, knock it off.

And landscapers also need to be educated to mow in such a way that their lawn clippings do not enter the lakes.

But Tinkle made a total of nine other recommendations, two of which stood out most prominently.

The first was to “ammend the two July [2015] Board meeting resolutions to authorize TetraTech to prepare a facilities plan for all 69 ponds within Gateway. And I need to clarify that. We don’t have 69 ponds, we have 64. So I don’t know where that 69 ever came from but [Natural Resources Supervisors] Elle [Harris] and I have gone through [and counted them]. We have 64 ponds and 4 of those have already been done, so we can probably reduce 69 to 60 ponds that we need to re-evaluate and do a facilities plan for all of those at one time.”

All stop.

What do you mean there are 64 ponds and not 69?

These are the kinds of things that are worrisome. The governing body of Gateway doesn’t even know how many ponds there are in Gateway – and yet costs are being calculated based on incorrect basic facts?

If you remember, it was discovered back in March 2015 that the Supervisors believed they’d paid for and approved for all of Lake #126 (out of 64 lakes) to be repaired but that only the parts of the lake connected to homeowner properties were actually being fixed.

And out of the few ponds that they have repaired, the GSCDD has already had to cancel contracts with vendors and increase costs on some of those projects.

Consider, too, that over $1,000,000 has been spent, or is approved to be spent, despite the fact the community has very little grasp on the problem. Supervisor Gary Neubauer noted that during the September 17 meeting, the phrase “I don’t know” or some form of it was used over 23 times when discussing the lakes topic that day.

We’ve been writing for awhile that money is being spent blindly by the GSCDD on the Lake Bank Restoration Project, and it’s good to see the Supervisors are starting to realize that.

Neubauer also expressed extreme unease at the fact there is no structure within the GSCDD to actually manage who is responsible for what, and yet the district was prepared to ask for a $5,000,000 SRF (State Revolving Fund) loan.

Thank you, Gary, for realizing that a million dollars later, nobody knows what’s going on.

And now Gateway is preparing to borrow $5 million or more despite the fact they still don’t know what’s going on? It’s been literally amazing to watch.

Speaking of that SRF loan, the second key recommendation made by Tinkle (which will directly affect everyone who lives here) was making the SRF loan have a 20 year repayment period instead of trying to pay for the project over 5 years.

“Billy-Bob that moves in to Gateway 5 years from now, he pays for it for 15 years. If we go any other methodology (5 year payment plan) he gets it for free when he comes in. That’s not right,” said Tinkle.

It is true that this project should benefit the residents of Gateway for the next 20 years, if not longer. So spreading the payment out for a longer period seems to make sense. With interest rates at historic lows it might also make financial sense.

Billy-Bob might not agree with Tinkle, but Billy-Jane who lives in Gateway right now probably would.

However, if the GSCDD plans tackle water quality in addition to bank erosion as part of the SRF loan, then $5,000,000 won’t be nearly enough. The cost could double.

As the discussion was spiraling out of control and in five different directions, Chairman William Guy pumped the breaks and placed top priority on Neubauer’s concerns about management structure going forward.

Guy announced he was forming a committee consisting of himself, the Ponds Working Group, Tetra Tech and others who will be getting together sometime this week to figure out a leadership structure for managing the problem with Gateway’s ponds.

Everyone involved in the discussion seemed to agree to reconvene on this issue at the October 15, 2015 board meeting.

Finally, it seems, the residents of Gateway can rest assured that there will be some form of structure in dealing with this massive issue going forward.

And we can also be pleased with the fact that after all this time and money has been spent tackling the problems, somebody finally bothered to go ahead and count the number of lakes.

Progress!

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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