Water-Related News

Increase in wastewater rates gets preliminary OK

It’s about to get more expensive to flush the toilet in Fort Meade.

City commissioners gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to a 12 percent rate increase in wastewater rates for residential and commercial customers, and 20 percent for industrial users.

For families using about 7,000 gallons of wastewater a month, that comes down to $4.61 more than they had been paying.

The increase will close an estimated $70,000 gap in the city’s wastewater budget, said City Manager Fred Hilliard.

Commissioners offered little discussion Tuesday, saying they knew the rate increasing was coming and that it’s necessary.

When it came time for a motion to approve the measure, though, the three commissioners seeking re-election this fall looked to Jim Watts and Barbara Manley, whose seats won’t be on the November ballot.

Manley moved to approve it, and Watts seconded it. The vote was unanimous, including commissioners Bob Elliott, Rick Cochrane and Maurice Nelson.

The measure now will move to a public hearing and final vote at the commission’s Oct. 13 meeting.

For residential customers, the monthly rate for 7,000 gallons of wastewater will increase from $37.30 to $41.91. At the city’s current rate, Fort Meade had the second lowest wastewater rates in the county, with only Bartow charging less for that service. The increase will boost Fort Meade to the middle of the pack among 10 cities and Polk County, according to a survey included in the city’s rate study.

City Attorney Tom Cloud, who introduced the ordinance and the rate study Tuesday night, said industrial users will see the greatest increase, if the ordinance gets final approval, because those businesses are creating the problems for the system.

“If you have a class that has a proportionately larger impact on your cost,” he told commissioners, “I would argue that you have a duty to set the rates higher for that class.”

Hilliard said there are just a handful of industrial users on the city’s wastewater system, but they are responsible for a large percentage of the monthly volume flowing through the plant.