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Tarpon to study two new water, sewer rate options

A city consultant has proposed changing the structure of water and sewer fees in a way that would result in lower water rates and higher sewer rates for most customers.

The study by Burton & Associates recommends that the city approve one of two plans for a new rate structure. City commissioners will vote on the issue at later meetings.

One proposed structure would have water users pay $5.55 as a monthly service charge, plus 96 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used up to 4,000 gallons. Beyond that, users would be charged $1.20 per 1,000 gallons between 5,000 and 8,000 gallons; $2.10 per 1,000 gallons between 9,000 and 12,000 gallons; and increasing amounts for water usage beyond that level.

This structure is designed to charge an increasing amount of money when residents and businesses use larger amounts of water. Such a structure encourages conservation, said Michael Burton of Burton & Associates.

Under this plan, sewer rates would start with a flat monthly fee of $10.98, then $3.80 per 1,000 gallons of usage.

Under another plan, called the fix-it rate, water customers would be charged a monthly fee of $5.88. They also would have to pay $1.01 per 1,000 gallons up to 4,000 gallons; $1.27 per 1,000 gallons between 5,000 and 8,000 gallons, and so on.

The sewer rates under this plan would start with a monthly fee of $11.65, plus $4.03 per 1,000 gallons of usage.

The fix-it plan would result in a higher rate increase in 2002, but smaller increases in the following three years, Burton said.

The other plan would be a smaller initial increase but higher increases over the following three years, he said.

Currently, residents who use 4,000 gallons of water a month or less are charged $12.64, and $3.16 for every 1,000 gallons up to 15,000 gallons. For every 1,000 gallons beyond 15,000, residents are charged $3.26. Sewer rates are $11.24 per month, plus $2.81 per 1,000 gallons between 5,000 and 15,000 gallons and $2.91 per 1,000 gallons beyond that.

Residents who live in large developments and are served by master meters had been concerned that the rate changes would hit them harder than people with individual meters.

After hearing the new rate structure, Joseph La Rocca, one of the most vocal residents on this issue, said he was pleased that master meter rates will be similar to those of individual users.

"This is what we need to hear," said La Rocca, president of the Woods at Anderson Park Homeowners Association.