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Tarpon tweaks water rates

Only those who use the most water will end up paying more, starting May 1, under a measure passed by the commission.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


Only those who use the most water will end up paying more, starting May 1, under a measure passed by the commission.

TARPON SPRINGS -- Responding to a demand to reduce water consumption by 5 percent, the Tarpon Springs City Commission voted Tuesday night to raise water rates for residents and businesses that use the most water.

Rates will not change for most residents, who use less than 8,000 gallons a month. The new rates go into effect May 1.

Currently, residents who use 4,000 gallons a month or less are charged $12.64, and $3.16 for every 1,000 gallons up to 15,000 gallons. For every 1,000 gallons beyond 15,000, residents are charged $3.26.

The base rate will stay the same with the changes approved Tuesday night, but residents who use more than 4,000 gallons will be charged more. Those using 4,001 to 8,000 gallons will be charged an additional $3.16 for each 1,000 gallons used. Those using 8,001 to 12,000 gallons will be charged $4.74 for every 1,000 gallons, and those using more than 12,000 gallons will be charged $5.53.

Rates also increase for commercial and master-metered customers on a similar scale. The amounts of the increase are based on meter sizes and the amount of water used.

The change in rates should encourage people who use the most water to cut back and likely will achieve the 5 percent reduction the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, has asked for, a city consultant said.

"We believe what we have put on the table today is a very prudent response," said Michael Burton, a water consultant for the city. "People who are using normal amounts of water are not going to be affected by this."

In an emergency order, Swiftmud told the city to use this kind of rate structure in its effort to reduce consumption, said Paul Smith, the city's public services administrator.

Commissioner Karen Brayboy said she did not like changing the rates on such short notice. But she said she understands the necessity of cutting back water use, so she voted in favor of the changes.

"I understand why we're doing it," she said. "But I do it very, very reluctantly."

Commissioner Beverley Billiris said it is essential for local governments to encourage water customers to cut back use, both through conservation education and rate increases for people who use the most water.

"This is a necessity," she said. "I'm very much for it."

- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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