LAKEWOOD RANCH -- With water bills exceeding $200,000 annually in some of Lakewood Ranch's four resident-controlled community development districts, the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority discussed ways to lower costs during a workshop meeting Tuesday.
Installing water meters, an action suggested by IDA chief financial officer Steve Zielinski, could ensure the districts are not overpaying Braden River Utilities, a subsidiary of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch.
"With all the rain in June, we didn't have a decrease in water usage," Zielinski told the IDA board of supervisors. "It's almost an identical amount from the prior month."
Zielinski said the water supplied to Lakewood Ranch could be based on allocation, rather than consumption.
In April, BRU informed the IDA of a 50 percent rate increase effective Oct. 1. The increase will be used to recover $2 million invested in improvements to BRU's infrastructure and a new water well installed in the Summerfield-Riverwalk community. The rates will increase from 60 cents per 1,000 gallons to 90 cents per 1,000 gallons per month over the next five years. The increase will cost residents an estimated $4 to $8 more per month depending on the neighborhood in which they live and the amount of water being used. Zielinski said the increases will add $100,000 to each district's budget for the 2013 fiscal year.
"We need to be sure we're paying for what we're getting," said Tom Green, IDA chairman.
Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch operations manager, said there are 11 stations at which water comes in and flows out of Lakewood Ranch and each station would have to be monitored simultaneously.
In March, Azad Shah of LPA Group, who was contracted in 2009 to conduct a study on water pressure in Lakewood Ranch, presented figures to district supervisors that showed $90,000 of double-billing errors by BRU during his study period.
Calls to BRU for comment Tuesday were not immediately returned.
In other news, Lakewood Ranch residents can expect to receive a memo from their respective community district supervisors regarding campaign signs on private property. Homeowner association deed restrictions ban campaign signs on Lakewood Ranch lawns. The only signs approved for yards are for-sale signs.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams