(1) Subject to this law, the board of county commissioners of any county may establish one or more districts as it shall in its discretion determine to be necessary in the public interest. Any such district shall consist of only unincorporated contiguous areas of such county, comprising part but not all of the areas of such county. As used herein, “unincorporated areas” shall mean all lands outside of the incorporated boundaries of towns, cities, or other municipalities of the state whether existing under the general law or special act and shall include any lands, areas, or property within the district of any special tax districts, school district, or any other public corporations or bodies politic of any nature whatsoever, except municipalities.
(2)(a) As an alternative method of establishing a water and sewer system district, a petition signed by persons owning not less than 10 percent of the property within the boundaries of the proposed district may be filed with the property appraiser of the county in which said district is to be located.
(b) Said petition shall describe the territory to be included in said proposed district, the name of the district if there is one, and the general purpose for which the district is being established, as set out in ss. 153.51 and 153.52.
(c) Said petition shall request the board of county commissioners to call and provide for a referendum election to determine whether such district shall be created and further call for an election of the first board of commissioners for said district.
(d) Within 30 days after the petition is received by the property appraiser, said property appraiser shall determine whether such petition has been duly signed by the requisite number of property owners within the boundaries of the proposed district. If there is a sufficient number of valid signatures, the property appraiser shall forthwith deliver said petition to the board of county commissioners who shall within 60 days hold an election to determine if the district shall be created. The board of county commissioners shall have notice of such election published once a week for 4 successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the area of the proposed district. Said notice shall describe the purpose for which the district is to be established and the territory proposed to be included in the said district. If there is no such newspaper, then notice may be posted on the courthouse door and in five conspicuous places within the proposed district.
(3)(a) At the same time the board of county commissioners receives from the property appraiser a petition and fixes the date for an election to determine if a district shall be established, said board of county commissioners may also call an election for three persons to serve as commissioners of the proposed district. The county commissioners shall also advertise in the same manner that an election is to be held for three commissioners of the proposed district and shall set out in said notice the qualifications of candidates to qualify by petition for election to said office. The board of county commissioners shall cause to be printed on the ballot for said district referendum the names of any persons qualified as candidates for the office of member of the board of commissioners of the district who have filed with the board of county commissioners a petition signed by not less than the owners of 10 percent of the property within the district. The candidate’s petition shall be filed with the board of county commissioners not less than 14 days prior to said election with a qualifying fee in the amount of $25 payable to the board of county commissioners. Said fee shall be used to defray the expense of the election. Should the qualifying fees exceed the cost of the election, the surplus shall be transferred into the general operating fund of the water and sewer district if it be established or if it be rejected then said surplus shall be transferred to the general county operating fund.
(b) The supervisor of elections shall assist the board of county commissioners in preparing a list of eligible electors from a list of property owners within the proposed district to be furnished by the property appraiser, and said supervisor shall further assist the board of county commissioners with such other administrative matters pertaining to the conduct of the election as the county commission deems appropriate.
(c) The ballot to be used at said election shall be in substantially the following form:
WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT
SPECIAL ELECTION (Insert date)
1. Shall Water and Sewer District County, Florida, be created?
2. Make a cross mark (x) before the names of the candidates of your choice.
FOR COMMISSIONERS OF
WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT
VOTE FOR THREE WRITE-IN VOTES
Blank lines shall be placed on the ballot so that the name of any person who did not file a petition and who is otherwise qualified may be written in, in the form of an irregular or write-in vote. The inspectors and clerks for said election shall be appointed by the board of county commissioners. The ballots shall be furnished by the board of county commissioners. The board of county commissioners shall designate an appropriate polling place or polling places where said election shall be held. The inspectors and clerks shall make returns to the board of county commissioners and said board of county commissioners shall canvass said election returns and declare the results thereof at a meeting to be held as soon as practical after said election.
(d) Said district shall be established upon a favorable vote in person or by proxy of the owners of 50 percent or more of the property within the district, and the three persons receiving the highest number of votes cast for candidates shall be elected commissioners of the district until their successors are elected. Upon expiration of 20 days after the declaration of the result of said election by the board of county commissioners, such declaration of the results shall be regarded for all purposes as conclusive.
(e) At said election only persons owning property within the district shall be qualified to vote. Such vote shall be in person or by proxy. No proxy shall be effective unless acknowledged by a notary public. If the board of county commissioners shall find and determine that the result of said election is adverse to the proposition of creating a district no other election for the same purpose shall be held within 1 year thereafter.
(f) If a requisite number of votes at such special election shall favor the creation of such a district, then said board of county commissioners shall enter an order constituting the territory in which said special election was held as a district with all the powers granted to water and sewer districts under the provisions of chapter 153.
(g) Commissioners of said district shall be the owners of property within said district who are registered electors in some county in the state, at least one of whom shall reside in the county or adjoining county.
(4) Beginning with the next general election following the creation of the district, and in the general election each 4 years thereafter, the said district commissioners shall qualify by petition and be elected by the property owners of the district. The three persons receiving the highest number of votes cast in the general election shall serve 4 years and shall take office at the same time as do other county officers, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January next after their election, and serve on the same cycle as do other constitutional county officers.
(5) In the event of a vacancy due to any cause in any board of commissioners, the same shall be filled by appointment by a majority of the members of the board of county commissioners for the unexpired term.
(6)(a) As soon as practicable after such district commissioners have been elected and have qualified, they shall meet and organize by election from among their number a chair, a secretary, and a treasurer. The secretary need not be a commissioner. Two members of the board shall constitute a quorum. The vote of two members shall be necessary to transact business.
(b) Each commissioner, before assuming office, shall be required to give the Governor a good and sufficient surety bond in the sum of $2,000, the cost thereof being borne by the district, conditioned on the faithful performance of the duties of his or her office, said bond to be approved and filed in the same manner as is that of the board of county commissioners. The failure of any person to make and file this bond within 10 days after his or her election shall create a vacancy on said board.
(7) The powers and duties of the commissioners shall be the same as those of county commissioners supervising districts as provided for under subsection (1).
(8) Members of the board of commissioners shall each be paid $5 a day for each day’s service; provided the per diem compensation shall not exceed the sum of $300 for each commissioner during any one year. Said members shall be reimbursed for travel expenses incurred in the performance of their duties as provided in s. 112.061. All boards of commissioners shall hold regular monthly meetings, and special meetings as needed, in the courthouse or in an appropriate place within the district.
(9) The owners of not less than 50 percent of the property within any proposed or established water and sewer district may at any time petition for a referendum calling for any two or more of said districts which are contiguous to be combined and be supervised by a single board elected as hereinabove described. However, if the board of county commissioners shall deem such a combination to be reasonably necessary for the purpose of providing the improvements authorized by this chapter, it may approve same, subject to referendum requirements, notwithstanding that the territories to be combined and included in the new district are not contiguous. Said referendum shall be conducted in substantially the same manner as a referendum to create a single district.
(10) All projects in any district created pursuant to this section as amended by chapter 70-433, Laws of Florida, affecting lakes, streams, or navigable waters shall conform to the provisions of chapter 253.