PALMETTO -- At Monday's Palmetto City Commission workshop, board members were presented with the results of a four month, head to toe, water/wastewater rate study. Andy Burnham, Senior VP at Burton & Associates, reported results from the rate study and offered workable options to keep the city's infrastructure in good shape.
It has been nearly a decade since Burton & Associates (B&A) performed the city's last utility rate study. This time around, B&A is offering a multi-year financial plan and full service funding.
Out of sight is out of mind, and never more true than with local governments and their responsibility to infrastructure maintenance. Burnham said the city's last water rate increase was in 2005, and the last wastewater hike was 2009, adding that water and sewer maintenance costs have increased by 31 percent since 2009.
Burnham said customer water and sewer rates will have to rise, but that Palmetto residents currently get a bill averaging $44.29 a month (4,000 gallons). That amount, he said, is considerably cheaper then other surrounding cities.
The B&A study stated city staff identified $10 million in required and recommended projects, to be performed throughout the city over the next five years.
Commissioners briefly sat stunned with sticker shock and uneasy over having to tell their constituents the years of no rate hikes and some of the lowest water cost in the region, were soon to be over.
The process to any rate hike will take months: workshop, first public reading, publicized hearing and a vote by city commissioners; the public is invited to all of them and encouraged to participate.
The B&A proposed rate increase will raise the average monthly cost from $44 to $57, and that is for using 4,000 gallons a month.
During the water workshops and meetings ahead, commissioners will be looking for methods of conservation and smart water use, to help keep the additional cost down to a minimum for their residents.
Commissioner Brian Williams said, "We have to figure out a way to do it. It is a health issue."
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