BROOKSVILLE — The cost of county water and wastewater services will be going up if the Hernando County Commission approves recommended rate increases at a public hearing Tuesday.
If the board adopts the rates, customers using 8,000 gallons of water a month would see their utility bills rise steadily in the next five years, from $59.94 per month this year to $74.68 by 2018-19, a jump of nearly 25 percent.
Revenue from the rate increases would generate an added $6.25 million over the five-year period to help finance approximately $100 million in capital projects in the works for the county's water and wastewater systems.
Those projects include diverting wastewater from the Osowaw Boulevard treatment plant to an expanded airport plant and to the Glen treatment plant, allowing the county, by 2016, to decommission the Osowaw plant, which has been troublesome and foul-smelling for years.
According to rate consultant Public Resources Management Group Inc., the higher rates are necessary to meet the needs of the Utilities Department.
"The proposed water and wastewater rates will remain very competitive with the neighboring utilities in the region and will result in a monthly combined water and wastewater bill increase for the average residential customer using 7,000 gallons of $2.73," according to supplemental material prepared for the public hearing.
A graphic shows that current Hernando utilities fees are lower than those in Pasco, Citrus, Marion and Hillsborough counties, and the city of Brooksville.
In 2009, when the county last did a five-year rate adjustment, utilities officials estimated the need for $150 million in capital projects. Then last year, officials looked at their needs again and realized that the growth that had been anticipated had not come. They changed or dropped several projects and brought a revised capital improvements budget to the County Commission.
Among the changes, they decided to phase in expansion of the airport plant and to step back from the high cost of preparing water for reuse since there were no new customers for that resource, said Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's director of environmental services.
Reuse water will still be available for Timber Pines. And the airport expansion will be built so that when new customers emerge, the plant can be used to provide water for reuse.
Hernando County has 61,600 water customers and 30,000 sewer customers.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.