Intercoastal Utilities Makes Attempt to Raise Rates Again

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- Intercoastal Utilities, which serves about 4,000 water and sewer customers in the Ponte Vedra Beach area, is trying again to raise its rates.

Company officials said they're renewing attempts at a rate hike to cover the cost of operations including a $2.6 million expansion of the facilities near the Sawgrass and Plantation subdivisions. That expansion took place in 2000 and 2001.

But a Florida administrative law judge in 2003 ruled the company was "over-earning" and directed Intercoastal to pay a collective $527,000 refund to customers and Intercoastal was directed to reduce rates by 15 percent for water service and 8 percent for sewer service.

So Intercoastal asked for another administrative hearing seeking an increase in rates. The new hearing lasted three days, from Jan. 12 through Jan. 14, at the Ponte Vedra Beach branch library.

Steve Reilly, an attorney for the Florida Office of Public Counsel, who represents Intercoastal's customers, said last week that he argued that not all of the expansion should be factored into a current rate increase.

"We said that probably only $1.6 million was spent on the plant to serve current customers and five years growth. About another $1 million was spent to serve 30 years growth. . . . If you take $1 million out of those costs, that reduces the rates," Reilly said.

Reilly argued there should be another $500,000 in reductions for expansion costs based on other related factors.

Both sides are due to provide additional written briefs arguing their cases to the administrative law judge by Friday, Feb. …