MARCO ISLAND — While Marco utility leaders turn up the water pressure, some Marco residents are turning up the pressure on officials saying the city is beefing up their water bills.
City Manager Steve Thompson and Public Works and Utility Director Rony Joel report problems of meeting minimum state water pressure requirements, particularly in the estates area and say they are turning up the pressure at the plants to meet those needs.
Water pressure has been an ongoing problem on the Island in recent years, but skepticism of increasing the pressure with the intent of increasing income is a relatively new concern.
Marco resident Tarik Ayasun hasn’t yet returned phone calls for comment, however, in recent memos to Thompson, he indicated great concern over the issue.
“When I received my December water bill, I was in shock!” he wrote in the letter dated Friday morning.
Ayasun said he was out of town most of the billing period, and upon request of utility manager Jim Lang, Ayasun also confirmed with a plumber that he had no water leaks and confirmed with his landscaper that he had no irrigation malfunction.
“On Wednesday morning, 5 a.m., I was outside the house trying to get my paper. It was another shock. My sprinklers were like geysers,” Ayasun continued.
He reported that his sprinklers were shooting water onto Dade Court, Inlet Drive and to the neighbor’s house across the street.
Ayasun reported that after speaking with his sprinkler serviceman again, he learned that residents are contacting the sprinkler service company reporting an approximate 50 percent increase in water pressure causing burst sprinkler heads and other problems.
Rick Boynton, owner of Thompson Irrigation on Marco Island said he hasn’t heard about those problems.
“If anything, we usually get calls that there is no pressure ... Too much is better than not enough,” added the business owner.
Boynton recommends that if homeowners are experiencing too much pressure, which will add to water use and expense, that they can turn down their zone run times.
This reporter also attempted to contact other sprinkler companies on Island, including Collier Genie and S & S Sprinkler, but those contractors have not returned the phone calls as of print time.
Thompson, per information in his Weekly Update to council Thursday evening, is also aware of all of the issues.
“We do have properties close to falling below 20 psi (pounds per square inch) — the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) requirement,” Thompson reported.
Those requirements are needed for both fire suppression and use of second level or higher restrooms, he added.
“There has been a suggestion that the higher pressure is a deliberate attempt to generate higher consumption of water and higher revenues for the city,” Thompson wrote Thursday.
The city recently increased water and sewer usage rates by 9.5 percent and has reported the anticipation of future annual increases compounding to more than 30 percent in the next few years to accommodate declining income and escalating costs. Those future increases have not yet been approved by council.
“I have been very clear in my direction to city staff that (increasing water pressure to increase income) is not and will not be a consideration,” Thompson said.
There are projects that will need to be done to improve these water pressure issues, including a new water tank, new pipes and other improvements, he has reported.
Joel added that the utility committee reviewed and recommended approval of a four-year plan for these improvements.
“The increase (at the plant) from 75 psi to 78-80 psi is a short term solution. The current CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) and rate structure has a four year program for pipe upgrade of approximately $3.5 million in conjunction with the south water tank project that should be on line by mid 2011,” Joel said.
Over a month, the increase is about 2 to 5 percent in water-use, he added.
“When the improvements are completed, we do anticipate that the reduced water pressure will reduce water use by approximately 5 to 8 percent.
“When certain areas of the Island were developed, water pipes were installed to meet the demand at that time and in the near future. As the Island has developed, the demand has increased. To meet that demand through the same pipe, requires us to increase the pressure,” Joel said.
While it’s not on the agenda, council members said they anticipate broaching the issue at their meeting scheduled 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.