In the recent article in the Eagle titled “Utility employee writes on Marco’s ‘proactive sewer’ project”, Mr. Bradshaw confirmed that the old vitrified clay pipes that comprise some 40 percent of the old Marco Island sewer system are in sad shape and are leaking.
Some of you may remember a presentation back during the last election called “The Dirty Little Secret” wherein I pointed out that old sewer pipes on Marco Island were leaking. Not only did I say they were leaking, but I quantified those leaks at 170,000 gallons per day. This statement was met with vehement denials from several community leaders, not to mention the usual voodoo numbers from the utility.
The Dirty Little Secret Power Point Presentation and a paper showing just how small a hole can produce a 170,000 gallon per day leak can be viewed on the Marco Island Blog at http://marcoislandblog.blogspot.com/.
Now that leaking pipes can potentially produce more increases for the already bloated rates of the Marco Island Utilities, this story comes out based on the review of Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, records. Those CCTV records existed back in 2007, but we were never provided that information, as it would have confirmed “The Dirty Little Secret.”
So now the question becomes who is going to pay to rehabilitate all these old leaky pipes? If you ask the Utility they will tell you that existing users have been paying rates for years to replace and repair the infrastructure when it wears out. That is a lie. The repair and replacement fund if it ever existed went with Florida Water when they sold the system to Marco.
Since Marco bought the system they were supposed to build a repair and replacement fund as part of the covenants in the original bonds, but they are spending that money as fast as they collect it. There is no pot of money built up by existing, new, or any other users to replace these pipes.
To add insult to injury, there are still nearly 9,000 utility customers who’s sewer base rate is based on master meter rates rather than individual base rates. These friends and neighbors, have never paid anything near a fair base sewer rate, even though most of them have been on the system since it’s inception.
In fact, the Collier Boulevard project and of course the STRP have subsidized these freeloaders by giving them new lines and a new plant to replace the one they wore out. Yes I am talking about our friends and neighbors in master metered condos.
Back in 2005 the City Council did adjust the water base rate for master metered condos to 75 percent of the base rate the rest of us have to pay. The 25 percent reduction was justified by saying the master meters are easier to read so the Utility saves money and that savings should be passed on to the users.
Even though single meter rates, (single family homes, individually metered condos, most commercial establishments), are subject to constant rate increases, the master meter users still plug along paying 20 percent of what everyone else pays. It is high time to correct this outrageous inequity that places one group of Islanders subsidizing another.
Base rates should be base rates whether you live in a single family home, or penthouse condo. Also there is little to justify a 25 percent discount for master meter accounts, so that should be changed to equity with the single meter rates.
Finally, sewer base rates equal to single meter accounts must be assessed to these master metered accounts. The days of single family and individually metered condos subsidizing 9,000 others must end and everyone should pay their fair share. Furthermore, the Utility Rate Committee should look into a utility rate room charge for the hotels.
It is time to end the inequity; fix the rates, and there will be plenty of money to fix the pipes.