Tampa residents to pay more for water

07/19/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The city of Tampa recently proposed a drinking water rate increase that would ultimately double the price within five years.

The City Council will discuss the issue next month.

But in the interim, to cope with the drought Tampa has used up its supply of drinking water from the Hillsborough River, and has been purchasing it from Tampa Bay Water. To pay for that, the city will soon add a slight charge to the water bills of Tampa residents.

The city is calling the charges a ‘pass through’, and says it is only a temporary charge until the Hillsborough River is sufficiently replenished.

Public Works and Utilities Manager Steve Daignault said in the past when the city purchased water from Tampa Bay Water, it was such a minimal amount that it was never listed on residents' bills.

The proposal was approved by the City Council, with one noted exception.

Councilman John Dingfelder, for the third time this year, said he would vote ‘no’ to express his displeasure that the Iorio administration has shown little apettite to research the possibility of cutting off Hillsborough County residents from Tampa’s water supply when the interlocal agreement between the city and county ends in 12 years.

But again, Dingfelder could not find any support from other council members.

The interlocal agreement, which dates back to 1979, requires the city of Tampa to provide unincorporated parts of Hillsborough County water.

Tampa City Councilman Thomas Scott served on the Hillsborough County Commission for years, and said he couldn’t believe that Dingfelder would want to promulgate more tensions between the governments.

Councilman Charlie Miranda said Dingfelder was dead wrong. He praised Tampa Bay Water for aiding the city as it deals with its dwindling drinking water supply during the drought.

And Miranda said the issue of water in the Tampa Bay Area is a complex one.

If the surcharge had been in place in 2006, it would have added $14 annually to the average customer's water bill.

In other action, the City Council was briefed about the issue between the city and Swiftmud regarding minimal flow level of the Hillsborough River and the Tampa Bypass Canal.

Because the city is in litigation with Tampa Bay Water regarding this issue, a City Attorney informed the Council that there could be no public discussion about it.

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