Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Council Approves Hike in Neptune Beach Water Bills

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Council Approves Hike in Neptune Beach Water Bills

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

NEPTUNE BEACH - City water services customers will be paying higher rates in about two weeks.

The City Council unanimously approved a water rate increase that goes into effect Oct. 1. The action follows a state mandate for Neptune Beach and other municipalities to remove more nitrogen from wastewater. Reworking the water treatment facility off Forest Avenue will cost about $1.5 million.

The council opted for a 7.8 percent increase for 2011, which would raise the monthly bill from $57 to about $61.50 for an average residential customer. That increase would be repeated in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, the hike would jump to 7.9 percent, then to 2.5 percent in 2015.

The hike could have been more dramatic as outlined by the city's consulting firm Burton & Associates of St. Augustine. The firm's vice president, Andrew Burnham, told the council in a Sept. 6 hearing they could have implemented the increase with a whopping 20.5 percent hike that would have increased an average water user's monthly bill from $57 a month for 4,000 gallons to nearly $69 in 2011. Then there would have been 2.5 percent annual increases until 2015.

But Burnham advised the council to opt for the more moderate increases over a longer time because it would be easier for customers. He also said part of the reason for the increase is customers' decision to conserve more water, which is decreasing revenues.

Burnham said the good news is Neptune Beach customers can hardly conserve more water than they already are.

"I'm very hesitant to say that you're at the bottom. But I will say I think there's very limited room to go," he said. "The only thing that can affect your consumption now is not really a reduction in usage ... but the loss of customers due to additional foreclosures."

Municipalities along the 100-mile section of the St. …

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