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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas to raise utility rates



CLEARWATER -- Pinellas County will begin charging utility customers more next month, but the county commission did agree Tuesday to reduce the hike by a smidgen.

In this case, a smidgen equals 48 cents.

The typical bill will go up $3.50 a month for water and sewer service. People with reclaimed water service will see a nearly $4.50 increase.

Commissioners Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield voted against raising water rates after failing to get agreement to trim the hike by 86 cents.

"It's time to pay the piper," Commisisoner Susan Latvala said, arguing the county had delayed increases it needed for years.

But Bostock continued to pressed for cuts, while utility officials defended higher rates as necessary to keep financing for bond ratings, improvements and emergencies. That said, utilities boss Tom Crandall and private consultants acknowledged water consumption is dropping.

Crandall also acknowledged the the 48-cent decrease in the hike --a 3.5 percent increase instead of 5 percent -- could be accomplished without hurting the utility finances. But that only further irked Bostock and Brickfield.

"If 3.5 percent is acceptable, why were we given a 5 percent increase (to approve)?' Brickfield asked.

Crandall said 5 percent was the best estimate four months ago, triggering Bostock to suggest he dodged the real question: Why wasn't the proposal changed.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:09pm]


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