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Hernando County will consider water, sewer fee increases for pay for upgrades

BROOKSVILLE — To pay for an ambitious $150 million plan to upgrade water and sewer facilities countywide, the County Commission will consider utility rate increases during a public hearing slated for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The water and sewer fee increases would be spread over five years, raising $1.6 million in additional revenue per year to help finance the capital projects and operate the system.

The average water and sewer bill for a residential customer using 8,000 gallons of water per month would rise from the current $42.25 to $43.01 next year. In the fifth year, that bill would be $57.12.

The proposed fees would have a built-in impetus for conservation.

The more water a residential customer uses, the more expensive the water becomes, and the graduated increases are much steeper than the current graduated scale.

The first 5,000 gallons of water are billed now at $1.12 per 1,000 gallons. The new rate in the first year of the changes would be 95 cents per 1,000 gallons and eventually grow back to the current $1.12 in the fifth year. For usage between 5,001 and 10,000 gallons, the current rate is $1.12, and the new rate would be the same in 2010 and grow to $1.33 by 2014.

Currently, customers pay $1.34 per 1,000 gallons for water from 10,001 and 20,000, and the proposal would increase that to $1.68 in year one and $1.98 by year five.

The difference gets greater as water usage grows. For anyone using more than 75,000 gallons, the rate jumps from the current $3.36 per 1,000 to $11.20 in the first year and $13.23 in the fifth.

The current base charge of $5 does not change in the first year but grows to $6 by the fifth.

The base rate for wastewater fees would increase from $12.33 to $12.50 in the first year and to $17.35 in the fifth. The rate per 1,000 gallons of water used would go from $2.66 to $2.90 in the first year to $4.03 in 2014. The 5,000-gallon cap for sewer fees will remain the same.

Improvements needed

County utilities director Joe Stapf had previously briefed the County Commission on the network of water and sewer improvements needed in the county's aging utility system. The main focus has been to take smaller and troubled wastewater plants off line while adding capacity to larger, more regional plants at the Glen and the Hernando County Airport.

The plan also includes expanding the availability of water for reuse by communities and golf courses.

The improvements will be made using utility reserve funds and millions of dollars in loans, much of that money made available through the federal economic stimulus program. The rate increases will be used to pay back the loans.

Increases in commercial rates, changes in connection fees and fees charged to tap into main lines are also a part of the proposal commissioners will consider Tuesday.

If approved, the new utility rates will go into effect at the beginning of the county's fiscal year, Oct. 1.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County will consider water, sewer fee increases for pay for upgrades 05/10/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 10, 2009 8:52pm]
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