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Hillsborough reclaimed water rate unchanged

A proposal to charge by the gallon is squelched by public outcry. The rate of $7 monthly will remain for 30 years.

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 21, 2001

TAMPA -- People using reclaimed water, or under contract to get the system installed, can sprinkle their lawns at a flat rate for at least the next 30 years, Hillsborough County commissioners decided Tuesday.

The decision pleased reclaimed water users angry about a proposal to charge by the gallon instead of the flat monthly fee of about $7 charged for nearly a decade.

"I'm satisfied," said Julian Brinson of Cheval. "That was the way it was presented to us (from the start)."

About 7,000 customers use 14-million gallons of reclaimed water daily in the county. About 6,000 live in northern Hillsborough.

Homeowners in communities such as Carrollwood Village, Westchase, Avila, Van Dyke Farms, Calusa Trace and Cheval were promised unlimited access to reclaimed water at a flat fee when signing up for the system.

But county water officials said some customers were using excessive amounts. To discourage waste, they proposed recently that meters be installed and fees be based on usage.

The public outcry after the plan was announced caused county officials to drop it. Tuesday, commissioners decided to allow the 47 communities currently receiving reclaimed water, and six others with reclaimed systems under construction or under contract, to remain under a flat fee for no less than 30 years.

That will give residents in every community, even those newly under contract to get the service, time to pay off the cost of installing the system before facing the prospect of paying fees based on usage.

Community investment tax funds cover much of the cost of bringing reclaimed water to a neighborhood, but each customer is charged $8,000 for the cost of installing pipes. Some customers choose to pay in annual installments over 20 years.

Tuesday's decision affects only existing systems and contracts. Future contracts will probably require residents to pay by the gallon.

Also included in Tuesday's recommendation was the installation of master meters at subdivisions so water officials can target abusers with education campaigns.

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at 226-3468.

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