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Pinellas Park likely to raise water, sewer rates

PINELLAS PARK — Residents will likely see their water bills go up for the third year in a row beginning next month.

Pinellas Park council members tentatively approved a 4.25 percent increase each in water and sewer rates at Thursday's meeting. If given final approval at the council's Oct. 28 meeting, residents would see their minimum water fees increase by 77 cents to $18.86 per month and their minimum monthly charge for sewer would go up by 91 cents to $22.39 a month.

Customers who live outside the city would see their minimum water fees increase by 95 cents to $23.57 a month. Their sewer charges would go up $1.13 to $27.98 a month.

The city is pitching the increase as a pass-through of a rate hike from Pinellas County, which sells water to Pinellas Park. But that's not the whole story. The county is charging 3.5 percent more to its wholesale water customers and 1.5 percent more to its wholesale sewer customers, less than the city is passing on.

Pinellas Park is also hiking its turn-on fees for both drinking and reclaimed water from $5 to $25 for such service during regular working hours; from $25 to $35, after 4:30 p.m. as well as increases in other charges and the addition of some new charges.

Also going up by about 4.2 percent is the cost of reclaimed water.

The minimum monthly bill for reclaimed water to in-city residents would go up 37 cents a month, to $9.09. The minimum monthly rate for reclaimed water for residents outside the city would go up 46 cents to $11.36 a month.

Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said the city has to raise its rates not only to cover the increase in rates charged by Pinellas County, but also to make sure the city has enough money to satisfy requirements of bonds it sold to improve the water/sewer/reclaimed water system. If Pinellas Park did not satisfy those requirements, it could lose its high rating and the bonds could be called, forcing it to pay them off immediately.

Besides, Caddell said, the city is increasing its reclaimed rates by only 4.2 percent. The county doubled its reclaimed rates, he said.

The county did double its reclaimed rates to retail customers, but not to Pinellas Park, said Kevin Becotte, head of Pinellas County Utilities. The county charges Pinellas Park about 20 cents per thousand gallons for reclaimed water and has for years, he said. That rate might have been in effect since 1995 when the two signed the contract for the county to supply reclaimed to the city, but Becotte said he can't be sure because records that old aren't readily available.

This is the seventh time since 2000 that Pinellas Park has increased its rates.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas Park likely to raise water, sewer rates 10/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 16, 2010 4:31am]
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