Make us your home page
Instagram

Agency reaches deal to buy Mad Hatter Utilities in Pasco

A multicounty government agency that purchases private water companies has reached a tentative agreement to buy out Mad Hatter Utility, which has served portions of Land O'Lakes for more than 35 years.

The Florida Governmental Utility Authority had been in talks off and on with the company for nearly three years. But a request last fall for dramatically higher water rates sped up negotiations. Under the agreement, FGUA would pay Mad Hatter $9 million, along with another $5 million in 2024.

"We wanted to get the best deal we could up front for the customers," said Brian Armstrong, an FGUA lawyer who negotiates utility acquisitions.

The deal must still be approved by county commissioners and the FGUA's board of directors.

Mad Hatter owner Larry DeLuceany said he is selling his business in part because he is getting too old. DeLuceany, 64, is a hands-on owner who could be found helping out in a ditch if a water line broke. He offered to stay on for three to four months during the transition and expects to take several weeks to simply clean out the office.

DeLuceany said he isn't "overly overwhelmed" by the sale price, but he said customers should get a better deal under the new ownership. Public agencies with large economies of scale, he said, "can do it quicker, better and easier."

Mad Hatter serves about 3,500 water customers and 3,000 sewer customers in Lutz and Land O'Lakes. Affected subdivisions include: Twin Lake, Woodridge, Turtle Lakes, Carpenter's Run, Indian Lakes, Oak Grove, Foxwood, Linda Lakes and Paradise Lakes.

Last fall, the utility asked the Florida Public Service Commission for a $1.7 million increase in water bills, a jump of 233 percent. Wastewater bills would have gone up 42 percent, generating a total of $500,000. The PSC in December suspended the request, and the utility later asked for the agency to hold off on a ruling while it negotiated the sale.

Regulators had not granted an increase in Mad Hatter rates since 1993. Last year's request would have raised monthly bills for an average home using 6,000 gallons of water from $51 a month to $104.

Because of the $9 million sale price and $3.5 million worth of planned improvements, FGUA has proposed increasing rates for that average home to $89. Those would likely increase by a 2 percent inflation adjustment each year.

"The owner was looking for $45 million at first when he was selling this stuff," Armstrong said. "We walked away because that would mean big rate increases."

The PSC was likely to grant the utility's request for higher rates, Armstrong said. Plus, the company probably would've needed more upgrades in the future, prompting another request for higher rates.

Armstrong said FGUA can partner with Pasco County's water system to reduce necessary improvements. For example, the agency plans interconnections with the county system to ensure uninterrupted water flow if a Mad Hatter well fails.

FGUA considers itself a transitional agency that buys a private system, improves it and then turns it over to a local government. FGUA has made similar deals in several counties across Florida, including the 2009 purchase of Aloha Utilities and a new water plant for that system.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Agency reaches deal to buy Mad Hatter Utilities in Pasco 03/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 5:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Proino Breakfast Club owner charged with not paying state taxes

    Crime

    LARGO — Just before noon on a recent Sunday at Proino Breakfast Club, the dining room was bustling as owner George Soulellis chatted with a customer.

    Proino Breakfast Club at 201 West Bay Drive in Largo. The owner was arrested last month on a theft of state funds charge, according to court records. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation

    Business

    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  5. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]