ZEPHYRHILLS — Bottled water giant Nestle Waters has agreed to pump money into Zephyrhills utility coffers after the city discovered a snafu that had it under-billing its biggest customer for five years. The funds will pay for water-related capital projects.
Nestle Waters, through its Zephyrhills Bottled Water Company, and the Zephyrhills City Council agreed Monday to enter into a public/private partnership to recoup funds for water and sewer utility services.
City officials discovered they had not charged the bottled water company rate increases implemented over the past five years. Zephyrhills Bottled Water is the city’s biggest customer.
So Zephyrhills approached the company — also its biggest taxpayer — about the discovery, which amounted to about a $650,000 loss, City Manager Steve Spina said.
Instead of letting the loss stand, Nestle offered to help pay for capital improvements to Zephyrhills water and sewer infrastructure, Spina said. The partnership will span five years, and Nestle has pledged to spend $650,000 over that time.
"I think it shows they are a really good community partner," Spina said.
The city has corrected the rate it charges the company. No other customers missed out on the rate hikes.
Some projects earmarked for the Nestle funds this year include well rehabilitation, water system evaluations and mapping.
The company also will help with permit application fees and matching grant funding.
Council members welcomed the funding. Zephyrhills Bottled Water is not only a good customer, they said, but has been a branding boon. The familiar sight of the water’s label has given the city name recognition.
"We are really in debt to you," Council President Alan Knight said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect amount for the city overbilling.