St. Johns County sets sights on buying coastal utility service
St. Johns County is moving toward acquiring North Beach Utilities Inc.

utility bills 01.18
The purchase would require about $4M in upgrades to North Beaches Utility.

St. Johns County is in the process of acquiring its seventh utility service since 2005, and sights are set on a coastal community area that might be small, but is a popular destination for visitors to the hot spot for tourists.

North Beach Utilities Inc. services about 1,400 customers in the stretch of beachfront communities to the north of St. Augustine. The St. Johns County Commission unanimously agreed recently that the St. Johns County Utility District should follow through in an acquisition project.

The area of South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach is the stretch of coastal communities serviced by the utility. It’s across a bridge and just north of St. Augustine and straddles the popular State Road A1A.

It’s relatively small, but it’s in an area that services many beachfront visitors in the tourism-rich county. Smaller hotels and private residential vacation rentals dot the area. Vilano Beach has also undergone a major community renewal transformation in the past two decades drawing increased businesses and visitors. It’s also one of the key entryways to driving on the beach in St. Johns County just north of the St. Augustine Inlet.

The North Beach Utilities provide water and wastewater services for the residents and businesses of the area and is expected to require an investment of at least $4 million to upgrade the infrastructure of the service upon any completed sale, according to county estimates.

While residents may be fond of having their own utility service, North Beach Community Alliance President Carol Anderson said it’s time for modernization.

“My family has lived in North Beach for 10 years and appreciate the responsiveness of North Beach Utilities to the residents,” Anderson said in a prepared statement to the county.

“But our community has grown significantly with commercial development and I can only imagine that puts a strain on the small utility. We are very supportive of the county acquiring North Beach Utilities so that residents and visitors have the strong support of the St. Johns County Utilities Department.”

County staff is currently in the process of developing purchase and sales agreements for the privately-owned utility service. County officials are examining the cost of short-term and long-term improvements along with negotiations on the price of the acquisition.

A public hearing is set for May 7 in St. Johns County to field input from residents.

“We plan to clearly communicate and engage with North Beach Utilities customers each step of the way on this journey,” said St. Johns County Utility Director Neil Shinkre.

St. Johns County began exploring the utility purchase in 2022. Environmental surveys and other due diligence measures are now underway and are expected to continue through July.

County officials say they plan to finalize acquisition documents in August.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Sundance

    April 27, 2024 at 4:44 pm

    The new borough of the Bronx
    Square feet to square feet of concrete and dirty sidewalks

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