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County raises water rates for some users

In an attempt to force more water conservation, commissioners institute seasonal increases.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Hoping to cut water use during the peak demand months, Hernando County commissioners Tuesday raised the cost of water for March, April, May and June.

Homeowners on the county-run water system who use more than 15,000 gallons -- the average amount for two houses -- will see a 25 percent increase in their fees. Businesses will have similar rate increases.

The changes should ensure adequate water pressure for fighting fires and flushing toilets, two serious public health and welfare concerns, Utilities Director Kay Adams said. If use does not decrease, she added, the county's average daily pumping level could exceed its state-permitted amount of about 6-million gallons.

"That's a big reason to keep it down," Adams said.

All the commissioners agreed with the idea of imposing seasonal rates. Despite that support, Commissioner Betty Whitehouse voted against the measure because of its timing.

A week ago, commissioners unanimously decided by motion to hold off a final decision until today because Whitehouse and Nancy Robinson were supposed to be out of town Tuesday. They returned to Brooksville from Washington, D.C., a day early, however, and Whitehouse attended Tuesday's session.

With her present, the other commissioners forged ahead.

"I feel like this has been amply notified and people have been sent mailers since December. People knew this meeting was today," Commissioner Diane Rowden said. "I don't feel we need to postpone this any longer."

She asked Chairman Chris Kingsley if it was appropriate to move for the rate change. Kingsley said it would be fine, and Rowden made the motion.

Kingsley and Commissioner Mary Aiken went along with the motion. Kingsley said he was not troubled with the action because the county adopted the same seasonal rates a year ago, and it seemed clear that the item had at least three "yes" votes regardless of the day the vote occurred.

Robinson said she did not attend the meeting because the commission was not scheduled to consider the item. She had concerns about the commission's vote because it did not alter last week's motion, but added, "What can I do about it? They did it."

Only two members of the public, both of whom rarely miss a commission meeting, attended the session.

John Tenini argued that the springtime rates unfairly penalize homeowners, who he said use much less water than the county's mines and golf courses.

"I don't mind this here formula you're talking about," Tenini told commissioners. "But is it fair?"

Joe Fox picked up the same theme and urged the commission to wait until more homeowners might attend a continued public hearing today.

Adams told the commission that the rates will be equally applied to all of the utility's approximately 20,000 customers. Mines have special permits with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, she said, and must comply with the same average daily pumping rules that the utility faces.

She recommended approval of the rates, which will be retroactive to March 1. The first bills reflecting the new rates will go out this week.

Seasonal water rates

Customers of the Hernando County water and sewer district will see their water rates go up for the next four months if they use more than 15,000 gallons a month. County commissioners approved the new rates to try to force water conservation.

(Monthly water use (gallons), Rate per 1,000 gals.,Seasonal rate per 1,000 gals.)

3,000-8,000,$1,$1

8,001-15,000,$1.25,$1.25

15,001-25,000,$1.50,$1.88

25,001-50,000,$1.75,$2.19

50,001 and over,$2,$2.50

-- Source: Hernando County Utilities Department

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