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Water customers urged to contact PSC about refunds

Florida Water Services overcharged Morty Miller nearly $300 for water and sewer rates during the past five years. Now he wants the money back _ with interest.

Miller said the other 30,000 customers who were over-billed by the utility should also ask for their money back, and soon.

Today is the last day the state Public Service Commission will accept letters from Florida Water customers about whether they want refunds or future discounts.

"They weren't afraid to make us pay additional money," said Miller, the former president of the Spring Hill Civic Association who led a five-year battle against Florida Water. The fight ended in July when the PSC ordered the utility to refund $8.3-million to its customers. "Why should we be ashamed to make them pay us?"

Miller said he encouraged Florida Water customers to fax their comments to the PSC at (800) 511-0809.

"They should tell them they want their rebates and they want them now, as opposed to a plan of giving you a 10 percent discount over the next 20 years," he said.

In a three-page form letter included in customers' October bills, Florida Water asked customers to consider five repayment plans, including one that would allow the utility to walk away free.

In the Oct. 22 form letter, president John Cirello of Florida Water said the utility supports doing "nothing, allowing the current rates to continue without assigning refunds or surcharges to any" of its customers.

Miller said some people are confused by wording in the letter that implies all customers will have to pay a surcharge to cover the refund cost.

"They don't realize it's not those who were overcharged that will get the surcharge, it's those who were subsidized," said Miller, who speculated many customers never read the letter before throwing it away.

Current civic association president Jim McLaughlin wrote an Oct. 31 letter to the PSC on behalf of the association's members and Florida Water customers.

"The solution of refunds to us is simple," he wrote. "It is required by the court and must be made with interest."

McLaughlin also said in his letter, "We did not create this mess, the PSC did, and the PSC should arrange for us to get our money back. We should not be made to wait any longer."

The PSC is expected to make a final decision about how customers will be refunded at a Dec. 15 public hearing in Tallahassee.

The Spring Hill Civic Association is organizing a bus trip for residents to attend the meeting. Call McLaughlin at 686-5476.