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Environment: Water Solution- Central- June 2004

Local governments in Volusia, Lake and Seminole counties are beginning to take decidedly non-local approaches to solving some of the water-supply issues that threaten many areas of the state.

Already 14 of the 17 governments that comprise Volusia County have joined forces to address broader water issues. In Lake County, 13 of 16 city governments and the county have decided to make a similar pact. Efforts are under way in Seminole County to do the same.

Under the new agreements, communities will gradually connect their water systems, allowing for water to be used more effectively. The traditional approach is for each city to sink wells wherever it wants, potentially affecting each others' supplies, leaving some with a surplus while others face shortages.

The effort will allow communities to share the expense of developing alternative sources as well as the water and also may result in reduced costs by cutting the number of consumptive use permits they must run through the water management district. Cooperation might even mean more reliable supplies.

"The idea is that if you want to do something on a regional level, you have to get the county and local governments on board first," says Jake Varn, an attorney for Fowler White Boggs Baker in Tallahassee and facilitator for the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The downside of consolidation is that local governments typically make a substantial amount of money providing residents with water, and some are loath to give up the income.

Last fall in Volusia County, 13 municipal governments and the county created the Water Authority of Volusia to handle water supply issues. The effort will help the community develop facilities under one entity rather than several -- an important consideration as the Floridan Aquifer shows signs of stress.

The St. Johns Water Management District estimates that the aquifer is capable of supplying central Florida with about 670 million gallons per day -- a demand the region will exceed between 2005 and 2010. Any shortfall will have to be made up with alternative sources -- surface water or desalination, both expensive options.

Already the Water Authority of Volusia is looking at long-term financing mechanisms that use the bonding capacity of the larger cities. It's also concluded that in the near term treating surface water from the St. Johns River is more feasible than treating seawater. Much of the effort revolves around making water use more efficient rather than just producing more of it.

"It's not just looking at new facilities we might need to build," says Port Orange City Manager Ken Parker, who helped create the authority. "It's also looking at consumption and using water more efficiently."


Daytona Beach -- Volusia County has dropped plans to build a second seaside parking garage north of the Main Street Redevelopment Area, opting instead for a parking lot. The site is adjacent to the Ocean Center, which is about to undergo a $56-million, 200,000-sq.-ft. expansion.

Brown & Brown (NYSE-BRO) may borrow up to $200 million this summer to finance more acquisitions of small insurance agencies. The insurer has stated its long-term goal is $1 billion per year in revenue with a pretax profit of $400 million. Last year its revenue topped $550 million, with a profit margin of 32%, or $176 million.

Hayes Brothers Furniture Co. bought a 100,000-sq.-ft. warehouse on Fentress Boulevard for $2.3 million from Metecno AlumaShield, which is moving operations to DeLand. The furniture chain has seven stores in Volusia and Orange counties.

Deland -- BP International has signed a distribution agreement with Rep Services Inc. of Longwood in which the playground equipment distributor will represent BP's line of shade structures.

Kissimmee -- Tupperware Corp. (NYSE-TUP) cut 45 jobs at its central Florida call center. The company said it moved those positions to its new Philippines center.

Lake Mary -- Paychex Inc., the nation's second-largest payroll accounting company, has acquired Stromberg LLC, a software company that specializes in attendance and work-hour products. Terms of the deal were not released.

America Online has chosen Aluria Software's Spyware Eliminator program to bundle into the next version of its software. The licensing agreement may enable Aluria to grow from 20 employees to 50 by the end of the year.

Maitland -- HQ Global Workplaces, which spent most of 2003 in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, has expanded its Maitland Center facility by 50%. The Dallas-based office suites provider operates a second facility in south Orlando.

The Beijing Olympics in 2008 will feature technology developed by MeshNetworks Inc., which will provide wireless communications technology for 5,000 interactive kiosks. The sites will give users up-to-the-minute information about the games.

Orlando -- Florida Hospital introduced what it calls its "VIP Concierge Service" to provide quicker referrals and appointments with affiliated doctors as well as shorter wait times for certain outpatient services. The service, free for at least the first year, is aimed at increasing brand loyalty.

Hughes Supply (NYSE-HUG) sold its new $25-million headquarters building in Parramore but retained a 20-year lease on three-fourths of the property.

CNL Financial Group started construction on its second downtown office tower when law firm Akerman Senterfitt committed to lease 80,000 square feet on the top four floors. CNL will use about 85,000 square feet itself, leaving the 12-story building about 60% full already.

Adelphia Communications has hired 200 people at its new south Orlando call center, with plans to have 450 workers on board
by the end of July.

Osceola County -- The Reunion Resort & Club says it sold 790 homesites worth $170 million during a six-hour kickoff in March. Plans call for the $2-billion resort to have more than 7,000 residences, 1,200 hotel rooms and 2.1 million square feet of commercial space.

Sumterville -- Fleet Reserve Lehigh Development Corp. will build a three-building, 80-unit veterans' retirement community.

Tavares -- Lake Region Packing Association closed its 10-acre citrus packing plant, idling 120 workers. The association, which represents about 85 growers with 1,800 acres of citrus, will continue to exist, but the dwindling acreage did not justify such a large packing plant.

Baldwin Park

ORLANDO -- The first stores at the Village Center of Baldwin Park, downtown Orlando's newest neotraditional neighborhood, have opened. A Publix grocery was the first to open, followed by nearly two dozen more shops in the weeks that followed.