Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice Is Rolling out Tiered Water Rates

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice Is Rolling out Tiered Water Rates

Article excerpt

CITY COUNCIL: Bills would soar for some as officials try to cover the cost

VENICE -- The city unveiled its new "fair and equitable" utility rates at Tuesday's City Council meeting, and not everybody agrees with city officials' description of the plan, which raises some commercial rates by more than 300 percent while cutting mobile home users' water bills by about 15 percent.

If approved, the Lake Venice Golf Club will see its recent monthly irrigation bill for 5 million gallons go from $425 to about $1,750, which its manager says is going to affect golf prices.

"That's a pretty steep increase," said Rod Parry, Lake Venice's general manager. "It's not what we need in a declining industry."

City officials say they need to start charging customers for the cost of providing service. Under the current pricing plan, some customers subsidize others, said Len Bramble, the city's utilities director. He said that what the city is charging large users of reuse water -- sewer water that has been treated -- covers only about one-third of the cost. Most bulk users are golf courses.

"There's an increase in demand for reclaimed water that we can't meet," Bramble said. "We have to revalue that product."

Under the proposed tiered rates, about half of all residents in manufactured homes, who use about 1,000 gallons, will see bills drop about 15 percent. About a third of people living in single-family homes will see increases of about 2.4 percent.

Bramble and a consultant told the council that people in multi- family and manufactured homes use about 23 percent less water than people living in single-family homes, so they should be charged a lower base rate.

The new rates were developed by the city, consultants and a seven- member work group. The work group was formed last year after manufactured home residents complained they were being unfairly charged for equipment they did not have under rates approved last spring.

Bramble had a hard time explaining how utility rates were calculated and the council ordered him to come up with a plan based on the cost of providing service.

The citizen work group included four representatives from manufactured and multi-family homes and one representative from a single-family home. There were two commercial users but no golf course representatives. …

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