CITY WATCH: Should Palm Coast hire more staff to fix swales?

The city is considering adding two 'swale specialists' and a full time PEP system maintenance worker, among other proposed hires for the coming fiscal year.

City staff work on a swale. Photo courtesy of the city of Palm Coast
City staff work on a swale. Photo courtesy of the city of Palm Coast
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Swales — the grassy pseudo-ditches that line residential streets in Palm Coast and much of Florida — are one of the Palm Coast city government’s most frequent topics of resident complaints.

People complain because their swales are too muddy, too filled in, and, sometimes, to wet: Although they’re designed to hold water to keep it from creeping up peoples’ yards, they can become a smelly, mosquito-attracting annoyance if the water gets blocked and sits stagnant for too long.

There are 1,222 miles worth of city swales, and two crews assigned to work on them. When the swales are working as intended, they recharge the groundwater and gradually move stormwater toward the city’s 177 miles of ditches, which then carry it to canals and the Intracoastal.

Palm Coast’s stormwater department wants to increase its number of swale workers by hiring two full time “swale specialists” to handle citizen work order complaints this coming year.

The department is also proposing to hire an equipment operator, a project specialist and a senior project manager. Adding those five full time positions to the department’s current 48 staff members would bring the total number to 53.

The Palm Coast City Council heard the proposal as city staff gave a presentation on the coming year’s proposed budget during a council budget workshop on July 27.

The city’s stormwater department, like most others, is expecting a larger budget this year: The staff presentation showed a potential increase of 39.7%, or approximately $6.93 million, for the stormwater department.

Another proposed improvement for the coming years involves the city’s wastewater collection system: Palm Coast is proposing an 18% budget increase for wastewater in order to cover a new employee to work on PEP system maintenance, among other factors.

Increases are also expected at the city’s three water plants (6.2% at Plant 1; 8.5% at Plant 2 and 10.7% at Plant 3), as well as in the city’s water distribution department and wastewater pumping and its building permits fund and IT enterprise fund, which are each rising over 8%.

Council members asked clarifying questions but didn’t voice objections to specific budget items. One councilman was absent: Ed Danko, who is a campaign adviser for mayoral candidate Alan Lowe, had notified the city staff that he would be absent because of Election Day.

The council will set its maximum tentative property tax rate on Aug. 3, then  hold a series of budget workshops before adopting a tentative property tax rate on Sept. 9 and a finale rate Sept. 22.









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