St. Johns County agrees to buy North Beach Utilities

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to buy the Vilano Beach service provider for $6.025 million to help enable future county expansion.

St. Johns County
St. Johns County
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The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners unanimously agreed May 7 to buy North Beach Utilities Inc. for $6.025 million.

The private water and wastewater utility system provides services to an estimated 1,400 Vilano Beach-area residents.

According to a Utility Department report to the board, NBU is one of several public and private utilities providing water and wastewater service within the county and the purchase will help coordinate service that is “restrained by these competing systems.”

The department plans to transfer money from its Utility Enterprise Fund reserves to its Unrestricted Capital Projects Fund to pay for the purchase. Neal Shinkre, county utility department director, said it has an estimated $58 million in reserves.  

North Beach Utilities serves about 1,400 Vilano Beach customers.

The planned closing on the deal is Aug. 28, which would be accompanied by community outreach. 

The county contracted with Tampa-based civil engineering services firm Ardurra Group, Inc. to evaluate the condition of the utility’s system. 

Overall, Ardurra found NBU is in “fair to good condition” with a few areas identified for improvement, including lift station repairs, a million-gallon water tank and other systemwide improvements.

The report estimates $6.8 million will be needed for improvements over time.

The county hired Charlotte, North Carolina-based Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc. to conduct a valuation study to determine the price.

The board instructed Shinkre on March 19 to research a purchase proposal and return with an analysis and recommendation.

Shinkre told the board then that the utility has acquired seven utilities since 2005. 

The report says “the acquisition of the NBU System is in the public interest.”

“The Purchase Agreement will allow the County to control and coordinate existing resources to avoid inefficient effort and develop a cooperative regional approach as outlined in the Purchase Agreement to provide water and wastewater services and facilities and advance the conservation and environmentally sensitive use and provision of water resources,” it says.

Shinkre said the purchase “will provide short- and long-term benefits to the NBU community by strengthening the condition of existing utility infrastructure and increasing its level of service to its customers. We plan to clearly communicate and engage with NBU customers each step of the way on this journey.”

“Is there anything major that could derail this purchase?” Commissioner Krista Jordan said to Shinkre.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “This is a well-run utility provider.”



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