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Bradenton OKs hikes in water, sewer fees

An overnight sewer main break sent waste water pouring into the intersection of Cortez Road and 66th Street in December. The city of Bradenton has been aggressively replacing aging water and sewer lines and will raise rates to keep the pace.
An overnight sewer main break sent waste water pouring into the intersection of Cortez Road and 66th Street in December. The city of Bradenton has been aggressively replacing aging water and sewer lines and will raise rates to keep the pace. Bradenton Herald

The Bradenton City Council has approved increases in water and sewer fees to help pay for new infrastructure.

Some water and sewer lines still date back to before the 1950s but the city has had in place an aggressive replacement program for the past few years. In order to keep pace with that program, the city has approved a 4 percent hike in utility fees for the second year in a row after no increases the previous three years.

Some Bradenton residents have a different kind of Hurricane Irma mess to contend with after a 10-inch sewage line gave way during the storm.

The average household and business will see an increase of between $2.68 to about $4 a month depending on usage. The increases will raise an estimated $786,000 in additional revenue for the public works department, which relies on utility fees to maintain the city’s underground infrastructure.

“We are seeking this increase to help offset increasing costs associated with our operations,” said Jim McLellan, public works director.

Bradenton officials say 2,000 gallons of sewage has been leaked into Ware's Creek thus far after discovering a block in the lines on Monday.

McLellan said some of the increases to overall operations include the rise in costs of chemicals at the water treatment plant, sludge disposal and a water hike imposed by Manatee County. Bradenton is in no short supply of water, but an interlocal agreement has the city paying to use county pipes for certain sections of the city, which is cheaper than building new infrastructure.

A major sewer line break has occured on 9th Avenue West between 3rd and 6th Streets West. The road may be closed there into Thursday.

McLellan said he could have come before the city council without a public hearing but felt it was the right thing to do. There was no public comment.

Council members said they felt the action was fair because utility fees are essentially a user fee. The more you use, the more you pay.

“If we didn’t do an increase and still needed to do those projects, where would the money come from?” asked Vice Mayor Gene Brown.

McLellan said the city would have to choose to use general fund dollars or decrease the pace of infrastructure replacement.

Utility fees generate about $4 million a year prior to this year’s rate hike, “so we are keeping up where we need to be,” Brown said.

The city also voted to increase stormwater fees by 4 percent. McLellan said that increase averages out to about 19 cents per month.

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