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Water rates to go up in the county for many in new year


The Indian River County Commission approved new utility rates at the Nov. 13 meeting, although it must still pass a rate resolution, probably in January, before new rates take effect  March 1, 2019.

This is the first rate change in 19 years.

The biggest jump in rates will be felt by builders who need water and sewer lines installed for new homes.

Some people who use large amounts of drinking water and multi-dwelling properties such as trailer parks that send unusually large amounts of water into the sanitary sewer system will pay more as well.

On the other side of the ledger, reuse water users will end up paying about a third of what they pay now.

The decision to alter some utility rates came after the commission got the results of a utility rate study it commissioned in 2017.

Raftelis Financial Consultants of Orlando found most fees are at appropriate levels to cover operations, upkeep, future expansions and debt service, but several changes were suggested.

Fees to install new water and sewer lines to mostly one-off single-family-home builders will increase substantially – going up as much as 600 percent – since directional boring, labor and materials costs have gone up in the last 19 years.

The current rate is $400 for a new water line; the study suggests upping that to $2,785. A new sewer line is currently $500 and the study suggests raising that per-house fee to $2,875. Both rate changes were approved by the commission.

Commissioners Peter O’Bryan and Bob Solari said they wanted to charge residents who use large amounts of drinking water more to rein in waste and promote conservation.

The caps in the four-tier rate structure were changed so the first 7,000 gallons per month will cost slightly less and user of more than 7,000 gallons will see rates go up. Those using over 12,000 gallons a month will pay $9.75 per 1,000 gallons compared to the current $7.70 charge.

Utilities Director Vincent Burke estimates the new drinking-water rates will bring in $1 million more per year, which will be put in the “renewal and replacement” fund to keep older pipes and parts in good repair to prevent leaks.

Solari said most of the water wasters are out-of-town, seasonal island residents whose sprinklers operate rain or shine on automatic timers. “Their behavior won’t change until the charge is significant,” he said.

A new fee, “inflow and infiltration surcharge,” will make trailer park owners, or others with master meters covering multiple dwellings, pay double to treat more than 12,000 gallons a month of wastewater.