Amid an often complicated relationship between Inverness and Citrus County government, Inverness’ new city manager, Eric Williams, said the city is taking steps to rebuild the alliance.
The two governments have been on opposite sides over such issues as development near the county-owned Inverness airport, county residents wanting to be annexed into the city, and who will oversee the lease of Citrus Memorial Hospital.
Williams said the city and county are taking tentative steps and making modest gestures that they want better interaction.
“This is like dating again” in the early stages of a relationship, Williams told the Chronicle editorial board this week.
A few deals between the county and city, that most in the public would consider innocuous, are also messages to each other that the two sides can work together, he said.
As examples, Williams cited such deals as the one on Jan. 7, when both the county and city agreed to a landfill agreement that would allow Waste Management garbage trucks hauling city residents’ waste to unload at the county-owned landfill on State Road 44 in Lecanto. The city trucks will still continue to use the Heart of Florida Landfill in Sumter County.
Williams said the deal generates revenue for the county but also establishes an economic working relationship between the two governments and sets the groundwork for other partnerships between the two entities.
Another example is when the county gave the city about an acre of land at the Inverness Airport. The city has its wastewater treatment plant at the county-owned airport. As part of the wastewater treatment process, the city also owns a spray field where the treated water is spread. The ownership of an acre of the spray field had been overlooked and still belonged to the county.
Recently, upon learning of the oversight, the county gave the city the property.
Williams said “it was a great gesture by the county” in ensuring continued services to city residents and of the city and county’s efforts to work together. If county officials had chosen to, they could have charged the city for the land, he said.
Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver said Williams has also reached out to the county to jointly work to enable the city to utilize a graphic information services program now used by the county.
He is also working with the county to develop land use codes overseeing development near the county-owned Inverness airport, Oliver said.
“These are coming along very well,” he said.
There are still rifts, though.
The city and county have feuded for more than a year over two voluntary annexations: one nearly 400 acres and owned by Greg Williams, and the another, owned by John Eden, which is 206 acres bordered by Lake Spivey on the east, and is slated to be used for an upscale RV park.
Last year the county settled with Greg Williams and stopped objecting to his voluntary annexation request into the city. But the county continues to object to the Eden annexation. That case is now in court.
But Oliver said he sees improvement.
“You have to take little steps,” Oliver said.
With a little progress, they become “big steps and the initiative moves forward,” Oliver said.
Eric Williams said that the economic success of all the cities and communities of the county are interlinked and Inverness should not try to make itself an island. For Inverness to do well, it should turn to the county for coordinated help and vice versa, he said.
“Every city resident is also a county resident,” he said, adding that both governments are there to provide services to them.