Water scarcity, the ability to pay for everything online, keeping taxes as low as possible, and an update on College Boulevard/Forest Drive multiuse pathways update were on the menu at The City of Niceville’s quarterly coffee with the city manager and mayor.
Mayor Dan Henkel and City Manager David Deitch highlighted several projects, praised city employees for their work, and listened to kudos and critiques from the dozen or so attendees at city hall.
“Rest assured that, again, I absolutely detest paying taxes. Again, mostly because I hate the way governments spend our money,” Deitch told the group, “I don’t want to pay higher taxes, and I don’t want anybody else [to pay higher taxes]. Probably most importantly, given where I came from – I was raised by a single mom, I’ve got a sister – [we were] at the very bottom of the socioeconomic scale already. I remember what it is to be cold. I remember what it is to be hungry. And I know that there are single parents out here who sent their kids to school with no breakfast this morning. I have a responsibility to make sure that we need to make this community as livable for them as possible.”
City Manager Deitch invested significant time talking about the city’s plan to reduce its drinkable water consumption and improve reclaimed water quality over the next couple of years. He outlined a threefold approach to help the city reduce the amount of drinkable water used by residents without straining them. City officials also hope this program will reduce homeowners monthly water bills.
Deitch says he has continued to work with Eglin Air Force base, where he served last in the Air Force and has a direct relationship with base leadership, to get permits approved to put reclaimed water pipes down on their land on the north side of College Boulevard. He believes the permits will be approved soon, and the county work crews charged with building out the infrastructure will begin on their tasks. He told the group to expect project completion between a year and 18 months – or Summer 2025 at the latest.
The second portion of the city’s plan to reduce water use comes from the north. City Manager Deitch noted that the City of Niceville is in a water caution area. He told the group that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) limits the city to pulling three million gallons of drinking water daily from the Floridian Aquifer. That aquifer, which provides most of the state’s drinking water, must replenish over time from rain and river water – hence the need for rationing. “Our permit limits are very rigid, and the DEP has said, ‘don’t ask for more, you’re not getting more,'” Deitch said.
To bring more water that is not subject to those restrictions, city leadership plans to tap into a water line the county has run from Crestview in the north to use water from outside the aquifer.
Finally, the city water and sewer department of the city has begun to talk about ideas to put reclaimed water tanks somewhere in the city – maybe on the Eglin Golf Course or in the vicinity of Deer Moss Creek (according to Deitch) that would hold reclaimed water and reduce the issues residents using reclaimed water are experiencing, like clogged up pipes and sprinklers.
“We actually met with our engineers [Thursday, February 1] and had a long meeting; this was part of the conversation,” He said. “But that’s a project it’s probably a year or two off now. But [it’s] something that we’re actively working towards to solve this problem so that we know that the waters are clean and don’t cause problems.”
According to Deitch, both the State College and the golf course have asked to hook into a future system like this – which would generate revenue for the city in the long run and make water potentially cheaper for everyone else.
The city hopes to get more payments citizens have to make online to reduce the amount of foot traffic they have and enable more people to pay for little things more quickly.
City Manager Deitch says he hopes to have water billing, rent public spaces like the children’s park pavilion, and renew business licenses payable online shortly.
“We’re making it user-friendly for our team, but a lot more user-friendly for the community so that you can get stuff done online from the comfort of your home,” he told the group.
City Manager Deitch and the mayor also highlighted the multiuse pathway, which will eventually stretch from Rocky Bayou Drive and Forest, head north to the intersection of Forest and College, and then jog west to Northwest Florida State College’s front gate.
The team told the audience the design stage is in the 50% range, and the city, county, and state are all working towards the concrete pouring phase.