S.. L LJLNALD R. FEASTER, P.E.
P.O. BOX 270592 TAMPA, FLORIDA 33688
June 28, 1984
Mr. Gary Kuhl
Southwest Florida Water Management District
2379 Broad Street
Brooksville, FL 33512
RE: Elimination of Basin Boards
I was extremely surprised to hear your recommendation for the elimination of
the Basin Boards at the workshop of the Governing Board in Tampa on June 20.
You may not view your recommendation as eliminating the Basin Boards; however,
your proposal to take away their existing tax authority will indeed eliminate
probably 90% of the effectiveness of the Basin Boards that has been shown these
past 23 years.
Gary, since my employment at the District over eighteen years ago,'I have known
so many knowledgeable, intelligent, hardworking, conscientious and dedicated
Basin Board members that I could not stay out of this issue and stand idly by.
It is my opinion that the Basin Boards act as a balance of power, serve as an
excellent management tool, and go a long way toward keeping the staff on its
toes, thereby improving overall District effectiveness and efficiency.
Gary, quite frankly, the June 20 meeting appeared to be the first step of a
"railroad" attempt to wipe out the Basin Boards. And I do not accept that
providing "proper" legal notice for the July 5 Governing Board meeting where
final action is planned is an honest attempt at communication to all Basin
Board members and the general public. If an agency truly wants to communicate
openly with all interested parties, it produces new/releases for the news media
and at the same time directly communicates with those persons known to be
interested in the issue. Additionally, an agency would routinely set that
meeting at a future date which would allow adequate time for interested parties
to be made aware of the meeting and to schedule their calendars accordingly.
My major concern over your proposal to do away with the Basins results from my
personal involvement with almost 100 Basin Board members during my 15 1/2 years
at the District, the last 9 as Executive Director. The point is that many of
the past projects, as well as many of the continuing programs, were suggested
by Basin Board members. As I recall, many of these programs, probably a
majority, did not initially meet with strong Governing Board support, but they
^- were usually passed because of the Basin Board's willingness to bite the bullet
and assess the taxes to initiate the programs. The key factor in almost all of
these cases was that the Governing Board members were far removed from the
problem and inadequate time was available at the Board meeting for them to
understand the problem. They only saw the expense involved. But the Basin
Board members, by being closer to the problem and having participated in
lengthy discussion of the problem, looked at the funding required as an
investment in an approved quality of life. Some of these specific projects and
programs that come to mind, which originated within a Basin Board, met initial
Governing Board objection, and yet were finally approved, are as follows:
Funding for the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority (without
the District's Basins' financial support, I believe that the Authority
would have gone out of existence, but maybe it should have)
Peace and Manasota.Regional Water Supply Authority
Sawgrass Lake Environmental Education Center & Flood Control Project
Alligator Creek Flood Control Project
Regional Observation and Monitor Well Program
SQuality Water Improvement Program--Well Plugging
Regulatory District (the first regulation of water resources in the
state of Florida)
I'm sure that if we reviewed the list of all the programs and projects, there
would be a lot more. In fact, there are probably very few that originated at
Governing Board level.
Gary, I guess the point that disappoints me more is to believe that the staff,
in such a relatively short period of time, can take such a totally negative
view of the value of the Basin Boards. Of course, I also realize that in the
real world, staff positions may be influenced by Governing Board members who
may not wish to share authority. To be more direct, it is my opinion that
practically none of the previously listed projects and programs would have
become reality without the initiation by members of the Basin Boards and the
use of their tax authority. I feel certain that many of these projects would
have been summarily killed at the initial presentation to the Governing Board
and some of them might not have ever made it to the Governing Board agenda.
Another one of my concerns has to do with representation by all counties within
the District. Since there are sixteen counties in the District and two
Governing Board members must come from both Pinellas and Hillsborough, that
leaves only five Governing Board members to come from the other 14 counties.
This means that without Basin Boards there would be nine counties having no tax
authority representation with the Water Management District. I believe that if
your proposal was honestly, openly and adequately communicated to all sixteen
counties in the District, that you would find that most, if not all of them,
would object to the proposal.
I am well aware of the additional responsibilities being mandated upon the
"water management districts by the legislature and the increased expenses that
go with it, as well as the administrative and political problems in assessing
these charges to the Basin. But there are other ways that the District could
pick up a greater share of the regulatory expenses, such as a change in the
Gary, I apoligize if this letter may seem too strong, but after the meeting on
June 20, I realized that I could not live with myself if I did not put my
thoughts and feelings in writing. A common expression today is "if it ain't
broke, don't fix it", and this letter can be summed up in those few words.
Gary, please do not take this letter personally, and I don't believe you will,
because all you have to do is open your personal file and review one or two of
my commendation letters to you to,recall my opinion of your outstanding
I strongly suggest that your recommendation to eliminate the Basin Boards was
improper, ill-conceived, untimely, and that it should be withdrawn.
Donald R. Feaster, P.E.