City could make up $1.7 million with equitable utility rates, resident reports

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  • “This is definitely a tough topic that we need to address.” Council Chairman Rob Popoff

— Some call his estimates hasty, but others say Council should make haste if Marco resident Amadeo Petricca is correct about how much revenue is lost due to a possible disparity in utility rates.

“It’s time this city address the condo metered rates and get the condos to pay their fair share of their utility bills,” said Marco resident Frances Enman

Petricca, a member of the Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association and the Ad Hoc Utility Advisory Committee, estimates that if master meter rates were raised to be more equitable with single meters, the utility could earn $1.7 million more each year, nearly eliminating the need for estimated, across the board, rate increases, beginning with a projected 13 percent increase in October 2010 to follow the 9 percent increase already added earlier this month.

Petricca is requesting that Council immediately evaluate water and waste water rates paid by master metered condominiums versus individually-metered single-family homes.

“The utility is being denied the revenue it desperately needs and individually metered customers are subsidizing the master metered condos.”

Ken Honecker, also a member of MITA and the utility committee, has asked on several occasions that the committee have the ability to review this aspect of the rate structure.

Vice Chairman Frank Recker requested Council support Honecker’s and Petricca’s requests for the committee to review condo versus single-family water and waste water rates before the end of the year, but the idea garnered little vocal support from other Council members during recent meetings.

“I will not assume any adjustments or judgments should be made in haste as the rates were originally set based on what are believed to be honest professional judgments,” Councilman Wayne Waldack said Thursday.

Petricca proposes that the current base fee paid by individually metered customers of $23.69 should be the same for all sewer customers. Currently, master metered condos pay a base fee of $4.39 per month for waste water service. There are about 8,475 condo units on Island, and an adjustment would bring in about $1.7 million more dollars annually, he said.

“There is a difference in rates because there are differences in the amount of equipment and related services that may justify different rates,” Waldack said.

Public Works Director Rony Joel said that part of the reason for the differing rates is the ease in reading a master meter versus an individual meter.

“That logic may be acceptable for water consumption, but not for sewer waste disposal,” said Petricca.

Joel said the rate structures are computed based on several variables and due to the complexity will take time to study. Public Resources Management Group is to present a rate structure study early next year.

“I would encourage addressing the issue as soon as reasonably possible,” Waldack said.

Former City Councilman John Arceri, also a member of the utility advisory committee, said the committee was to stay focused on recommending utility project priorities and an approximate amount of money the utility needs.

“Our mission was to advise how much revenue is needed, not how to get it.”

Arceri added that there wouldn’t be time for the committee to meet a Nov. 9 deadline for a report to Council on how to most equitably charge for water and waste water.

“The committee was advised to keep on point and to avoid going off on tangents and to keep the committee focused on the subject task at hand,” Waldack said.

It’s typical for utilities, whether city-run or corporately-managed, to have varying rates amongst customer categories, Arceri said.

“There is never a complete resolution of inequities since there are so many variables to consider.”

Some of those variables include less pipe and associated maintenance with a master meter set up than with equivalent single family units.

“In addition, there is only one meter for dozens of living units in a master metered complex, which means a) less meter maintenance; b) less meter reading and c) less bills to be computed, mailed out and collected.”

Despite the reported complexities, many residents said now is the time to look at the rate structure, particularly condo rates versus single family home rates.

Chairman Rob Popoff had said with complaints from one particular resident being so rare, he hoped to heed the recommendation resident Richard Shoen had made to Council at their October 19 meeting.

Schoen, a single family home owner on Marco for many years, wanted Council to address the issue before the end of the year so that there was no excuse that condominiums’ budgets were already set.

“The condo people have their associations, but us private homeowners don’t have anything,” Schoen had said. Popoff promised Schoen that he would find answers.

Popoff said he is in the process of compiling information on the rate differences and plans to report back during a joint workshop between Council and the utility committee scheduled Nov. 9.

“This is definitely a tough topic that we need to address.”

The utility committee is scheduled to meet 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the lower level City Hall conference room, 50 Bald Eagle Drive, to prepare their report to Council on the total amount of money the city utility needs for the next two years.

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Comments » 7

jwputnam writes:

This is going to be interesting. Wonder if they will come to a conclusion prior to the election. Hmmm.

u2cane writes:

“The condo people have their associations, but us private homeowners don’t have anything,” Schoen had said. Popoff promised Schoen that he would find answers.

Actually we have our elected City Officials that we depend on not to screw us over.

“There is a difference in rates because there are differences in the amount of equipment and related services that may justify different rates,” Waldack said.

Almost a $20 difference? Are you serious, you can't honestly tell me that the difference in equipment and related services is an extra $20 per month. How about cut that in half and raise it $10 (for Condos) which seems more reasonable and you still raise an additional million dollars a year. So you would have condos at a base rate of $14.39 per month instead of a ridiculously low $4.39 and SFH would stay the same.

Next problem you want me to solve?

dc5799 writes:

Why is Arceri on any utility committee? He is one of the reason's we are in this mess.

u2cane writes:

Are ya'll sorry you voted to become a city? Let's do a vote on it again, I mean from what I hear it failed once then they tried again and it passed. Let's see if people who live here now still want to be a city.

marcoislandres writes:

It failed a few times before we became a city.

u2cane writes:

Ok, I checked a bill that I had from the City of Naples when I used to live in a condo there. Mind you, a 1 bedroom condo, my base sewer rate was $11.39. HOW THE HELL CAN YOU JUSTIFY A $4.39 BASE RATE???? I smell something really fishy here, no accusations or names, but I would start checking people's private banking accounts for funny deposits. Honestly, I think we raise the base rate $10 to $14.39 and we make up some money so the rates don't have to get raised. Or, we fire the people who are running things and hire ones who can do it at the right prices. If private business ran the way government entities ran, they would be out of business really really quick.

jwputnam writes:

U2cane,

It doesn't work like that. No cash changes hands. Only favors. Nothing traceable. I give you a big contract and I get a big one in return from a friend of a friend or to a friend of a friend. How do you think that Al Gore went from a modest net worth to a recently reported net worth of several hundred million and climbing. Now he rides around in his own private jet! You won't find any money trail. The hardest part to imagine is that they are all quite sure that what they do is for the better good for US! Kind of like Hillary thought it was OK for her to lie, cheat and steal to accumulate wealth so that she would eventually have the power to help US all obtain socialism. It just isn't OK for US to do that. Get it? After all, who is going to prosecute Hillary or Bill, right? Nobody did. Who is going to prosecute Charlie Rangel? Who is going to prosecute Chris Dodd? Are you getting the point? I thought so.

Who is going to prosecute our little syndicate? All we are doing is giving them another opportunity to get their slate relected, and I predict that they will (should make Issler giddy). Here is how it works: "Hey condos...have you seen what those evil malcontents are wanting to do to you AGAIN. If you vote for them, you will be paying HUGE (fair) rate increases and maybe even paying for the pipe replacement to your buildings instead of having them pay it for you like they have been." Wait and see. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. (After all, I thought of it!)

PS I don't hate condo owners, so don't start that thread please. I hate crime.

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