Keith Perry town hall deals with water, pension reform

Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.

Protection of water supplies and pension reform were the two key issues discussed at a Thursday evening town hall held by state Rep. Keith Perry at the Tower Road branch library.

Perry, a Gainesville Republican representing District 21, gave a recap of this year’s session and highlighted a few issues he will push in 2014.

Legislation and programs Perry said he will seek next year include money for new construction at the Santa Fe College Institute of Public Safety and a bill that would allow Gainesville Regional Utilities customers to vote on whether a regional board should oversee the utility rather than the Gainesville City Commission.

“Right now people outside the city have no say,” Perry said. “It’s not going to be an easy task. One commissioner called it immoral. I’m not sure what is immoral about it.”

Perry said he will also support reform of the state’s pension system so new employees would have only a 401(k)-style savings program for retirement rather than the option of a state-funded pension.

That drew questions from Jeani Valter, a retired teacher who is getting a pension and who still has friends teaching.

“I feel very strongly about that issue,” Valter said. “Florida has one of the strongest state retirement systems in the country as far as funding.”

Cross City’s Joyce Tarnow stressed the need to protect the region’s water supply.

Tarnow said springs and the wells of homeowners are going dry while consumptive-use permits allowing companies, agriculture operations and utilities to draw millions of gallons of water a day continue to be granted.

“The water management districts ... have not been protecting our water,” Tarnow said. “I had one neighbor who was without water for six months because she couldn’t afford to drill deeper ... Why are springs going dry? Why are wells going to sand?”

Perry said he would meet with Tarnow to discuss the issue in depth.

The town hall lasted about an hour and drew about 20 of Perry’s constituents.

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