When Manatee County residents turn on the water faucet or shower beginning in April, they will be paying more for the water coming out.
Over the next two years, water and wastewater rates will increase by 8 percent. The increase, which was approved by the county commission Tuesday, will be gradual with a 4 percent increase taking effect April 1 and the second 4 percent increase going into effect April 1, 2018.
For the average customer bill, the increase translates to an increase of less than $3 a month. Even with the increase, Manatee County will continue to maintain the lowest rate in the region.
“It does not fund growth,” said Michelle Balais, the county’s utilities senior fiscal services manager. “It also does not produce excess funding for our system.”
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With aging infrastructure, the increase will allow the county to maintain the system, according to Balais.
If the increase was not approved, there would have been “the potential for higher costs or higher rate increases in the future with a delay of not making the investments today,” she said.
Over the past nine years, the rates have increase by more than 27 percent. The most recent increases took effect in January 2015 and 2016 with a 4.75 percent increase both years.
Commissioner Charles Smith, who cast the lone dissenting vote, questioned why the rate increases were coming back to back.
“You are asking for three increases in four years,” he said.
But county staff said that 10 or 15 years ago, it wasn’t time to make the repairs on the infrastructure.
“For the first 10 or 15 years, those reinvestment needs aren’t there,” said Mark Simpson, the county’s water division manager. “They start to show after 15 or 20 years. That’s part of the reason we have it now.”
The county has an estimated $237 million in projects needed over the next five years and anticipates that another bond issuance in the next year or so, according to Tuesday’s presentation.
“We are anticipating those needs,” Balais said.
Also on Tuesday, the commission:
- Accepted a $10,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals “for the purpose of purchasing equipment and additional training to improve cruelty investigations by Manatee County Animal Services,” according to agenda materials.
- Adopted a Shared Facilities Agreement between the county and the East Manatee Fire Rescue District for a permanent EMS station at the East Manatee Fire Rescue District Station No. 2, which is located at 803 60th St. Court E., Bradenton. The station is “needed to provide for growth of the population residing and working in these immediate areas,” according to agenda materials.
- Approved sending a letter to the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority with revised water supply demands and supply needs from the authority beginning in 2036.
- Voted to have county staff bring forward a change to a county ordinance to allow for fire districts to provide advanced life support.