Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Sues over City's High Water Fees County Residents Pay Kingsland Higher Rates

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Sues over City's High Water Fees County Residents Pay Kingsland Higher Rates

Article excerpt

WOODBINE -- Camden County is suing Kingsland, claiming the city is overbilling water customers who live outside the city limits.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Superior Court, county officials claim city officials broke a 1994 agreement that said city and county residents hooked up to Kingsland's water supply must be charged the same rates.

"The reason we're filing the suit is to protect the county resident," said Barry King, Camden County administrator. "We have an absolute, vested interest in what's going on."

Officials from the city and county said they were told by their attorneys not to discuss the lawsuit. King declined further comment.

No trial date has been set to resolve the issue.

Kingsland residents currently pay about half as much as county residents who use the city's water, according to city records.

If a judge rules in favor of the county, the city may have to refund as much as $250,000 to an estimated 360 county households hooked up to city water, said Steve Berry, an attorney representing the county.

Kingsland's water and sewer ordinance, written in 1982 and amended in 1991 and 1998, has always set higher rates for customers outside city limits, records show.

The city's 1994 contract with the county simply said any rate increases imposed after the agreement was signed "will be in the exact dollar amount as correspondingly are imposed" on Kingsland residents.

Minutes from a January 1994 County Commission meeting, however, said an agreement between the city and county required the city to charge "the exact dollar amount that could be raised from existing fees for county residents to the same exact dollar amount paid by residents inside the city limits."

But nothing in the formal contract stipulated equal rates for city and county water customers.

In 1998, four years after the original agreement, the city revised its water ordinance and raised rates 20 percent for all customers, according to city records.

After the rate increase, city residents were charged 43 cents more per 1,000 gallons for water consumption of more than 3,000 gallons a month. …

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