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If You Think This Water Bill Increase is Bad ...


Most Manatee County residents aren't happy about a 9.75 percent increase (over two years) in their water and sewage utility rates that is owed to a combination of increased demand caused by development (about two percent annually) and years of deferring reinvestments on infrastructure. However, if county commissioners continue to allow developers to decide our growth strategies, that will just be the tip of the iceberg.

During a recent town hall held by Commissioner George Kruse, a citizen called the increase ridiculous. Kruse responded that while the current increase was unavoidable, residents could face much larger increases in the not-too-distant future if steps to avoid them are not taken.

"We've got (water) capacity right now—including some of the new builds, Buffalo Creek, and whatnot—to get us to 2037. After that, we're gonna have to buy our water from Peace River Water Authority."

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority makes wholesale drinking water available for its four member counties—Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte.

According to its website: "The Authority provides the platform for its four member counties to collaboratively plan the region’s water supply benefitting from an economy of scale, shared expertise, and environmental stewardship. Since 1991, we have provided drinking water to more than 900,000 people across Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. Every day, we supply an average of 26 million gallons of water per day (MGD) to our members."

That might sound like a benign solution, but the devil is in the details, as they say, which Kruse, who is the county's rep on Peace River's four-member board, went on to explain.

"If you think nine and a half percent increase in water (bills) now is bad, wait until we tell you you're buying water from Peace River because we don't even have the adequate pipes to get it here from Peace River. So, we, Manatee County, have the sole responsibility of building those pipes. We, Manatee County, have the sole responsibility of building the reservoirs to create the capacity of Peace River to hold the water for us, and, we, Manatee County, have to buy water from Peace River whose rates are twice what ours are. So, that's when your water rates are going to go up unless we create our own capacity here, which we have the ability to do if we're collecting enough money to increase our supply and our capacity here in Manatee County to avoid Peace River as long as humanly possible."

Kruse has been unsuccessfully lobbying his fellow Republican commissioners to revisit a developer-driven policy approved in 2021 that has allowed (certain) developers to build east of the county's Future Development Area Boundary. The FDAB represents the point at which the county no longer extends infrastructure to be connected to developments. Those areas were mostly zoned agricultural with a maximum density of one house per five acres of land, which would have to utilize well and septic.

The board began its assault on our rural hamlets prior to the passage of that policy when it approved Gamble Creek, a massive Lakewood Ranch-sized development that will dump a small city into an area of Parrish that is east of the FDAB and where no infrastructure exists to support it. It was approved under the condition that the developer construct and maintain its own water treatment facility—a route that has had limited success elsewhere and often sees the municipality taking over the facility at some point. It will be interesting, however, to see if that remains the case, given the approval of policy, which requires the developer to pay for the pipes but puts the county on the hook for creating capacity.

As Kruse explained to his audience, the county has not even considered what impact the enormous volume of soon-to-be-built homes allowing development east of the FDAB has already created will have on that capacity.

"Here's the problem," said Kruse. "Everything that's being built east of the FDAB is not factored into the 2037 schedule because we weren't supposed to build east of the FDAB, so the 2037 schedule is going to become 2036 and 2035 as things keep getting built out there.

When policy was created, attorneys for developer Pat Neal sold it as essentially a one-off, a policy so specifically tailored that his Taylor Ranch project would be the only conceivable development that would qualify. However, as soon as developer Carlos Beruff wanted an approval for his East River Ranch project, commissioners (sans Kruse) ignored the fact that it did not comply with the policy and simply approved its transmittal anyway.

In fact, the only time the board has denied an application under the policy has been on an occasion when it was from a developer who was not a part of the Neal/Beruff cartel that funds the pro-development puppet candidates, as well as the dark money PACs that sling endless "RINO" mud at anyone who dares to suggest that sustainable growth practices are anything less than a George Soros-funded communist ploy that will turn all the kids trans and see us eating insects in FEMA camps administered by Jihadist drag queens.

Meanwhile, where are the facility investment fees we heard about? Why does the impact fee issue keep getting postponed? These people are working for someone, folks, it just isn't the citizens of Manatee County.

What Can We Do for You Today, Mr. Neal?

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • Marsha P

    I love the last tongue-in-cheek line: “ communist ploy that will turn all the kids trans and see us eating insects in FEMA camps administered by Jihadist drag queens.” When did Republicans stop being the fiscal conservatives who believe that businesses and individuals should be responsible for themselves, and start being the “don’t worry the government will support you no matter what foolhardy choices you make” party?

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • WTF

    We are at capacity with no reserves for water, infrastructure, waste removal and other services needed to be sustainable. Uncontrolled growth, lack of infrastructure prior to growth is a terrible policy county has adopted. We could stop every building permit today and still we would still have a thriving community, free up the gridlock and provide a better quality of life.Stop the madness with the influx of developers money that has ruined our county. If they can't build, they won't contribute, it's an easy solutions, not complicated except for the greed of our elected officials and pay to play developers

    With the exception of George Kruse… V O T E them all out!

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • david

    If you think Kruse is your shining beacon of hope, and about anything else other than self-preservation and reelection, then you might deserve this board of county commissioners.

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • David Daniels

    I am grateful for, and enthusiastically support The Bradenton Times. I especially enjoy reader comments. But I wish commenters would provide their full names - David Daniels

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • sandy

    Haven't made up my mind yet on District 7 yet. If the vote was tomorrow, I have very serious concerns about both Green and Culbreath. Both seem to lean towards the KVO form of government at this time.

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • mcmplm

    Why does the solution to every funding issue automatically fall on the back of Manatee County citizens?

    The average county surplus over the last six years has averaged $175 million/year. Manatee county's balance sheet has over a $1.5 billion in cash sitting in short-term money market funds which will earn over $75 million this year. Why not use this windfall to fund utility capital spending ?

    Mike Meehan, CFA, MBA

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this

  • bbenac

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Manatee County has received and spent so much $ from the federal government that they are having a hard time just accounting for it. The most recent action was to fund staff salaries from these $-because there is no way they could spend it all in the time allotted. They have also deviated significantly from the Capital Improvement Plan to build and fast track projects-given this one time money. What happens next year, when the Feds can’t dole out endless dollars? Staff costs are hardly a “one time” cost-and the projects that they keep trying to fast track take years to complete. They also have increased the debt of the county many times beyond what any previous Boards have done-at a time of very high interest rates in an effort to show how “responsive” they are to growth pressures. However-they have not increased any costs to the developers-no increase in impact fees ,no increase in Facility Investment Fees, no plans for payment beyond a few years. Government bonds, unlike private bonds cannot be extended beyond the construction period of an improvement. Hold on to your wallets-the previous “cut” in the county tax rate in a time of 17% increase in property values (note you are NOT seeing lower tax bills) will be replaced with huge increases-to cover the debt and lack of any planning beyond the signs you see on every new landscaped island-“brought to you by YOUR County Commission”!

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this