Palmetto considers 28 percent utility rate increase

jtate@bradenton.comOctober 8, 2013 

PALMETTO -- As early as Nov. 1, Palmetto residents could be paying a 28 percent utility and water rate increase.

The Palmetto City Commission voted 4-to-1 Monday to approve the first reading for an option that would bring in $10 million to improve city water infrastructure over the next five years.

Commissioners Tambra Varnadore, Brian Williams, Tamara Cornwell and Jonathan Davis voted for the ordinance.

Commissioner Charles Smith voted against the ordinance because he said a rate increase right before the holiday season can put some residents in a financial bind.

"I oppose any rate increase coming right before the holidays," said Smith.

City Clerk Jim Freeman said the city does not turn off water on Fridays for customers behind in their payments, but said there was no set policy in place. After 46 days of non-payment a resident's water will be turned off, said Freeman.

The proposed increase would be applied to the water and sewer portions of the utility bill if the city commission approves the boost recommended Monday. OK'ing the rate bump would mean a $13.01 increase for a home using 4,000 gallons of water a month. According to a rate study done by Burton & Associates of St. Augustine, 49 percent of residents use less than 4,000 gallons and

would pay a smaller increase around $5 to $10.

City Clerk Jim Freeman said the proposal would go into effect Nov. 1 if passed at the second reading and public hearing at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.

In other business:

• Palmetto city commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance to allow the sale of alcohol within the city limits, however, the seller would have to be a approved for a special function permit. The ordinance was designed to accommodate events such as the Hernando Desoto Society's Seafood Festival, which is looking to bring its event to Palmetto next year.

Varnadore voted against the ordinance because she wanted recommendations for a open container policy. Smith, Williams, Davis and Cornwell voted for the ordinance.

The second reading and public hearing for this ordinance will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.

• The commissioners also voted 5-to-0 to make the intersection of 11th Avenue and Fifth Street West an all-way stop. Business owner Patsy Ugarte from Ugarte & Associates Architect and Planning said the intersection is dangerous for pedestrians crossing the street who have to dodge speeding traffic.

"My business is located at that intersection, I often see people stepping back. It's a dangerous situation," said Ugarte.

Stop signs will be installed within the next three weeks, said Alan Tusing, public works director. Two stop signs are now at the intersection.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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