In November, the Marco Island City Council voted to spend $50,000 to complete a water and sewer rate study to obtain the impartial facts relating to the usage of water and sewer by customer type, i.e. single family, condominium multi-metered, condominium individually metered and commercial.
To accomplish this goal, they authorized the establishment of a committee of four city councilors and the head of the utility advisory committee (the steering committee) to request proposals from experts in utility cost of service studies. Nine firms responded and the committee unanimously selected Burton & Associates, a nationally renowned utility economic service consultant to perform the study. The founder and lead consultant, Michael Burton, has over 30 years experience providing services to public and private utilities and has written manuals published by the American Water Works Association for utility rate design work.
While city staff and the steering committee are still validating the input data of this study, it appears that some groups of citizens reading the preliminary data do not like what the impartial results may show.
Last week, a guest commentary written by one individual who stated in the article “I would not profess to be remotely knowledgeable about setting rates for water and sewer,” appeared in several newspapers around the island. This guest contributor, president of the Marco Island Homeowner’s Association, established his position that the facts presented to the Steering Committee are not “fair and equitable” to single family home owners and that the City Council should ignore the independent consultant’s recommendation and return to the Utility Advisory Board’s original recommendation to reduce single family rates by 16 percent and increase condominiums and commercial rates by more than 25 percent. It should be noted here, that the Utility Advisory Board is composed of four single-family homeowners and only one condominium owner.
Let’s get the facts straight. Today, according to the usage data supplied by the city staff to the consultant the average condominium on Marco Island is currently consuming 2,000 gallons per month, while the average single family home is consuming 16,000 gallons per month.
Using the above data I would like to demonstrate the fallacy of Mr. Sacher’s argument. You and I agree to buy a 9-bedroom house. You use eight of the bedrooms and I use one; Mr. Sacher’s logic would suggest that since we purchased the home together we should equally share all of the expenses of the house. You can see how this analogy fails the “Fair and Equitable test.”
The reason the City Council voted to hire an independent consultant was to get the real facts. For too long now, misinformation has been floated by various groups on Marco Island to support their positions of how one group of users has been paying too little and another group too much.
This is the first time in the history of Marco Island that an independent and unbiased review of the true cost of providing water and sewer service to all users of the city has been commissioned. We all know the cost of our water and sewer service is high, but we all also know that what this island wants, is to insure that those costs are allocated fairly to all of our citizens.
The most critical element of this issue in front of Marco Island is that once again a group wants to create a “we/they” or “us/them” scenario that is so divisive to a community. Especially when there is a great need to come together to resolve many future opportunities. This will be excessively aggravated if the facts and findings of knowledgeable independent experts are ignored for political positioning.
I am confident our city council will act to implement fair and equitable rates based on an independent report despite the obvious attempt to shield and discredit those facts from others.