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Water conservation habits in Manatee bring lower connection fees for homebuilders

Water conservation may lead to savings for new homes

A proposal to lower the one-time fee charged for new connections to the county’s water and wastewater systems would impact new homes built.
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A proposal to lower the one-time fee charged for new connections to the county’s water and wastewater systems would impact new homes built.

People are taking shorter showers and flushing less water in Manatee County, which has led to a proposed decrease in a fee for homebuilders.

The Board of County Commissioners heard from the Utilities Department and a representative from the Public Resources Management Group (PRMG) at Tuesday’s work session about a proposal to lower the one-time fee charged for new connections to the county’s water and wastewater systems.

“Customers are using less water and contributing less wastewater,” said Rob Ori, with PRMG. “When you look at 10 to 15 years ago, water use was closer to 350 gallons per day, but now think of your showers and low-flow toilets. People are using less.”

Less water and waste means less impact on the county’s pipes, according to Ori, so the fee, which was been stuck at the same rate since 2006, is set to come down. Mike Gore, the director of the Utilities Department, also explained that developers tend to challenge him for a lower fee because they use more efficient appliances.

“We’re overdue for doing this,” said Assistant County Attorney Bill Clague.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if the average family were to replace the toilet, shower head and sink faucet in their main bathroom, the upgrades would pay for themselves in as little as a year.

The one-time payment for connecting to the county’s water and wastewater systems is known as a the Facility Investment Fee (FIF), which is more simply called a “connection fee” in other jurisdictions. County staff say it is used to “recover the dollar investment that assigns to future customers the capital cost of system capacity that is required to serve (the new development).”

The idea is that growth pays for growth. FIF funds are used to pay for water and sewer improvements in new development areas. The fee is typically paid by builders or contractors at the same time their building permit is issued.

“This is not something that’s going to affect someone unless they’re building a new home,” said Commissioner Betsy Benac.

But the proposed change is good news for most people, Ori said. There are separate calculations for water and wastewater, he explained. PRMG is suggesting that Manatee drop the cost of a wastewater connection, but slightly increase the cost of the water connection.

Those changes result in a cheaper fee, on average. The typical single-family residence connection would now cost $4,913, down about $84. Multi-family developments would be charged $2,947 per unit, which is about $486 less than before.

A PRMG study revealed that commercial facilities use more gallons of water per day than Manatee had considered before. Due to those results, commercial plug-ins to county lines will see increases of at least $652, Ori said.

“We think it’s reasonable based on the demands,” he explained.

The county’s lines are operating at about 70 percent of their capacity, according to Mark Simpson, water division manager for the utilities department. Statistics suggest that an expansion won’t be needed until 2032, when the use reaches about 90 percent.

Commissioners expect to hold a public hearing on the new fee calculations on June 18. They are set to take effect Oct. 1.

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