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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and 90.7 WMFE.

Corey Simon's development bill to tackle challenges facing North Florida's rural areas

a gas station in Quincy, Florida
Erich Martin

Republican Senator Corey Simon has a bill to help solve North Florida’s wastewater problem.

Many communities are too poor to fund massive improvements projects themselves, and often rely on state and federal funding.

Under current law, the state requires local governments to match at least half of any money they request for local wastewater improvement grants.

Of the nearly 30 counties the state has classified as fiscally constrained, most are in Republican Senator Corey Simon’s panhandle district. Including the Gadsden County city of Midway, where a study done nearly a decade ago found the city’s sewer system failing—pouring bacteria into the soil and surface water samples.

Midway City manager Dr. Henry Grant says the problem still exists today.

“Midway is the only one that does not have central sewage system for residence,” said Grant. “Now Midway does have it for the businesses, but it has not been extended through the residence.”

If passed, Simon’s bill would eliminate the match requirement for state grants, while raising the state’s total payout for local government projects.

That could help Midway, which recently received and is awaiting $3 million dollars from the federal government for its wastewater system.

“Rural areas encompasses hardworking Florida citizens employed in some of the most important industries in the state, including agriculture, logistics, manufacturing, and tourism,” said Simon. “Rural communities are prime for growth. This legislative session is the right moment for the governor and the legislature to come together for the rural communities and make them a priority. “

The federal grant will only cover partial removal and installation of the city’s main sewer line. According to a 2021 project request, it would require $40 million dollars to cover the entire city.

Councilwoman NanDrycka King Albert says residents should not have to deal with constant repairs.

“This is something that will help to clean up the environment as well as alleviate the burden of having to continuously get septic tanks pumped and provide the necessary maintenance in order for it to be viable,” said King Albert. “It was also mean we could allow more growth within the city, which is exceptionally what we would like to do.”

If the city secures funding, the city anticipates construction to begin by the end of the year.

Once completed, this transition will serve over a hundred homes and businesses and will result in the reduction of contaminants in the Wakulla Springs.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.