Marco Island's water rates study presented to public

— Marco Island residents and City Council members heard the long-awaited results of the Cost of Service study, which will be used to help set future water and sewer rates on the island.

Mike Burton, president of Burton and Associates, the firm hired by the city last December, made his recommendations to a packed council chamber during Thursday’s special meeting. Based on the findings, the impact of implementation of the calculated rates will be significant, although some residents should see a decrease in their bill. The savings are based on water usage; the more water used, the higher the cost.

The Cost of Service study specifically considered Marco Island and Marco Shores. According to the findings, residents who live in a single family home, a condo with individual meters and/or commercial users on Marco Island currently pay approximately $30.83 for water and $25.14 for sewer. Under the new rate structure, those residents would see a decline in their water and sewer bill.

When Burton broke down the findings to single residents between 9,000 square-feet to 15,000 square-feet, the savings were more substantial. Homes that use less than 1,000 gallons of water, which is more than 6 percent of residents billed, could experience a bill that is more than 26 percent lower. However, residents in the same square-footage home who use approximately 6,000 gallons of water, which Burton stated is the average usage amount, would see a 5 percent increase.

Residents who live in multi-unit condos or apartments with individual meters may see savings as high as 54 percent depending on water usage. More than 48 percent of bills in this category use less than 1,000 gallons of water. Those residents may see a savings of more than $30. But a nine percent increase could be in store for bill payers in this category who use 6,000 gallons of water or more.

For multiple unit homes (based on 30 units), Burton calculated a flat 10,000 gallon water usage. Residents in this category may see a 40 percent decrease in their bill.

On Marco Shores, the rate, single family homes with the same square-footage where residents use less than 1,000 gallons of water, which accounts for 43.6 percent of bills, would see a water bill more than 34 percent lower. Multi-units with 10,000 gallons of water usage would have a 12.1 percent bill reduction.

The increase in capital charges, also known as impact fees, will be the biggest pill for residents to swallow. Marco Island residents’ proposed fee for water and sewer would be $10,727, an increase of 16 percent totaling an extra $1,451. In Marco Shores, the same fee is estimated to be $9,466, a two percent increase equaling $190 dollars.

Burton explained to councilors that these capital fees are discretionary. However, the fees must be applied across the board, and according to state law, the council could not charge residents one fee and businesses a different fee.

In explaining his findings to council, Burton told members that the current rate structure is not unreasonable and is similar to other smaller communities. Burton also said that the data used in the Cost of Service study was enough to cover costs in 2010, but he did not know if the increased fees would make the city revenue neutral for 2011. The city needs to generate $27.2 million in revenue from water/sewer rates.

“We now have a starting point, whether we like the answers or not, to address some of these issues,” said council chairman Jerry Gibson.

“This will help us look at the implication of policy,” added Bill Trotter, one of three councilmen who also served on the Cost of Services advisory committee.

Since the meeting was intended to present findings and not set rates, many residents still have questions about the impact of the study.

“I think it would be more fair and equitable to have sewer fees based on the size of the house,” said A.K. Battagalli, a widow who told councilmen she paid nearly $400 for her last water bill and expressed concerns for people like herself who are on a fixed income. “We have to find a fair solution and I don’t think what you’re considering is fair for single family homes.”

Resident Bill McMullen worried that council members are considering a rate system without considering future operating costs.

“No one has addressed whether we make enough money (in revenue) to fund this elephant.”

With the report complete, the council scheduled a policy roundtable to further discuss the data and begin the process of setting rates. That workshop will be held on June 6.

A copy of the complete Cost of Service report is available on the city’s website, www.CityofMarcoIsland.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 8

captnjimbo writes:

Council...thanks for getting the facts.

marcofriend writes:

Unfortunately the Marco Eagle didn't get many of the facts straight. They intermixed sewer rates and water rates. It is easier to state that the average homeowner who currently uses 16,000 gallons a month will increase between 16-18 percent (you folks have to get with the program and quit watering your lawns so much). A much bigger increase would be for those same folks on the sewer side.
Master metered Condos would see the largest percentage decrease as they are using an AWWA standard that gives the illusion that there are fewer units and fewer people.
If you want to get to the biggest question, it would have to be that this Water/Waste Water Utility is a total mess and is screwing everyone on the island. God forbid if you own a commercial enterprise. Not a single Council in the past nor even the current one understands what is going on and that the debt is much too big for us to handle. Everyone needs to pay a huge number just to make the yearly interest payments. We all need to let our esteemed Councilors know that we are tired of the "us against them" game for a problem they created and continus to perpetuate.
We now have a utility that is much too large for our needs and the excessive costs should not get shoved down our throats.

MrBreeze writes:

How is it that 30 unit master metered building is just billed 10,000 gallons when the article states that small users are 1,000 gallons. I might have failed math as a kid but I think 1,000 X 30 units would be 30,000 gallons.

Also, who knows how many users are in these multi units and how many get rented out with the possible use being much higher.

The only fair solution is to meter all services. It is not a big deal to put a flow meter on the water service line. The meter is placed just in line to monitor flow and report true gallons used.

That is the only fair way to all. Pay for what you use period. If you want to waste water then waste your own money.

The city should mandate that all water service lines be metered and then we have a true baseline for use and costs.

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

Each and every dwelling that pays individual taxes on this island should have the individual meters to account for their water and sewer use. It should be up to the city to figure out how to accomplish this.

The burden to pay for the sewers and water should never have fallen on the shoulders of the homeowners in the first place.

Could you imagine if taxes were allocated the same way the water bills are allocated?

If you live here we should all as individuals pay the same for water. No matter if you live in a house or a condo.

OldMarcoMan writes:

We were a river of Grass, now we are a Sea of Brown.

The City paid for the study, was the result that hard to guess?

The City raced headlong into this project and now they are stunned they hit a wall.

Guess who plays and who pays?

ajm3s writes:

What was the original impetus to create such a large facility? Was it more a who wanted it vs why we need it? Was it based on a view that many planners of infrastructure believed that a 10-30% growth rate was sustainable? Was it a coterie under the management of Mr.Aceri as a major mover?

Just trying to see how we got here, because the new Community Center project request has similar markings. May have originally sounded like a great idea, ie. upgrade and more efficient, needed capacity, driven by a coterie, and on and on.

I just do not want to repeat history, and kick the can down the road.

If I understood the discussion, we have now agreed that "fair and balanced" from a cost of service perspective is NOT the same as "fair and balanced" from distribution of service perspective. Yet we need to pay for the services, even if the capacity exceeds the use of service and not all services are available to all users. The real kicker, the one class that would benefit from raw and reclaimed water (from cost of service basis) is in fact the largest user of potable water, the single family homeowner. Wow! How is that for getting screwed!

And I thank Mr. Burton, for providing a conclusion that is personal given the standards defined and chosen in a professional setting. Mr. Burton, definitely got the attention of some on Council, especially those that asked why the comment was included in his conclusion, since it was not requested in the official guidelines for cost of service study request.

So Council, we find ourselves back to policy to provide a "fair and equitable" rate, not a cost of service. Why, because the cost of service is based on the unfair distribution of water and the over capacity of facilities which skew the costs unfairly and inequitably.

Something tells me this will be contentious, but from my perspective the single family homeowner will not see fair and equitable services because it is encoded in the city DNA (Distribution not available).

tathiede writes:

in response to TheCoon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I know. Do you think the writer mixed up the square footage? What about a normal size home between 1900 and 9000 sq. ft.?

lauralbi1 writes:

I think the sizes (9000 to 15000) refer to lot size and not home size as the size relates to landscape water usage. Is it possible that this number was misunderstood as it is notg defined in the article ??

Ed Issler

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