Tampa to double water rates
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06/05/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio announced late yesterday a proposal that would essentially double the water rates for the citizens of Tampa in the next 5 years.

The proposal will go before the Tampa City Council in August.

Brad Baird is the City of Tampa’s Water Department Director. He says the rate increase is necessary for 4 different parts of the city’s water system. First and foremost, he says, is money to replace aging and leaking pipelines throughout the city (roll tape#1 o.q.”our useful life’)

A recent report in the Tampa Tribune revealed that the City lost billions of gallons water last year, mostly because of leaky pipes.

The rate increases would also pay for increasing costs for operations – specifically for chemical costs.

It would also pay for a recovery strategy for the Hillsborough River

And it would extend its reclaimed water system, known as STAR.

Published reports indicate that it is not a certainty that there will be a majority of Councilmembers supporting the rate increase.

John Dingfelder is one such Councilmember. He says he supports some parts of the Mayor’s proposal, but not for extending STAR, when he says its struggling right now (roll tape#2 o.q.”that we need”)

Tampa Water Department Director Brad Baird acknowledges that there has been problems in marketing the reclaimed water program, but says that is improving (roll tape#3 o.q.”recent drought”) And Baird says STAR II will expand to businesses, where the City thinks it can do much better on a financial scale.

Recently, Councilman Dingfelder has brought up a proposal that some consider radical. Currently the city of Tampa’s water Department services not just citizens in Tampa, but also in Hillsborough County. That interlocal agreement lasts until the year 2019. But Dingfelder says with water becoming an increasingly precious resource, he wants the City to study the ramifications of cutting off Hillsborough residents after that. He hasn’t exactly received a warm response (roll tape#4 o.q.”I don’t think that’s right”)

Currently, Tampa citizens pay one of the lowest water rates in the Tampa Bay Area, at $11.55 a month for about 7,500 gallons of water. Under the proposed pay rate structure, that average customer rate would move to $22.61 by 2012, with the increases coming on an annual basis.

Newly elected Tampa City Councilman Joseph Catanao says it’s too early to say if he’ll support the proposed increase in water rates. He says it’s extremely unfortunate that reclaimed water isn’t accessible in his district in New Tampa, and says it’s a reflection of how Tampa is dysfunctional in how they go about their business (roll tape#5 o.q.”but they don’t plan properly”)

These fee hikes are separate than another increase that Tampa water payers will face shortly. That’s from the city having to purchase water not originally budgeted from Tampa Bay Water, because the drought has depleted the amount purchased from the city’s original source, the Hillsborough River ….Again, Water Director Brad Baird (roll tape#5 o.q.”when we need it”)

The City definitely needs it in these times. That rate increase will be voted on by the City Council next month.

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