- In January of 2014 the town of White Springs was selected to participate in the Competitive Florida Partnership Pilot Program through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The Town had until June 30, 2014 to complete the deliverables specified in the contract with DEO including holding public meetings for citizens and business leaders, preparing a history and previous attempts at economic development as well as preparing a strategic plan for major priorities. Included in this scope of work was mapping of community assets and identification of areas needing improvement, all of which was completed on time.
One major issue that was identified was the lack of lodging – hotels, cabins, RV hook-ups and campsites – in the town that could accommodate visitors and guests during major events at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, such as the annual Folk Festival, and various events sponsored throughout the year by the Suwannee Bicycle Association, which draws hundreds of cyclists and nature enthusiasts to the town and surrounding areas.
One result, after meeting with the Suwannee River Water Management District and the Lands Committee, was that an approximate 180 acres of land adjacent to the town’s old sewer plant (referred to as the Barnett Tract) was conveyed over to the town for development of an eco-friendly lodge. The property has subsequently been surveyed and a deed of conveyance is being drawn up by town attorney Fred Koberlein. “Once that is complete, it goes back to the SRWMD governing board for their signature,” said Mayor Helen Miller, who has been spear-heading eco-tourism development in White Springs.
The only restriction is that the town cannot sell the land, Miller explained. The town will be seeking private sector partners to form a public-private partnership to develop and operate the eco-friendly lodge. “The objective is to create jobs in the community by facilitating private sector investment that will result in additional revenue and taxes flowing to the town, which is how the town benefits from that kind of development,” said Miller. The town received $40,000 in funding from DEO. Yet since funds for these projects were not kept separately by our Finance Director and, somehow $40,000 was rumored lost and it had to be replaced with Sewer and Water Funds.
On March 24, 2015, then Mayor Helen Miller briefed Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on economic development in White Springs.
Miller’s remarks focused on year one’s achievements of the CFO and the town’s current infrastructure projects that include Phase 1 of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sanitary sewer project. The project’s objective is to curtail inflow and infiltration, thereby reducing sewer expenses for town residents.
Miller also spoke about the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) small cities grant for construction of a new fire station in White Springs. Both infrastructure projects are being made possible by matching funds provided by the Hamilton County Development Authority.
In April of 2014 at the monthly council meeting, then Mayor Helen Miller announced proudly that because of the increase in Sewer and Water rates, the Town now has the $250,000 matching funds for the $3,000,000 loan information Former Town Manager Farley secured. The State was to reimburse the town for I believe 92.5% and White Springs portion would be 7.5% of the amount borrowed