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City water rates set to go up

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy says he’s always been proud of the city’s low water rates.  They haven’t been adjusted in seven years.
“Outsiders have come in and said, ‘Oh, you have to raise your rates,’ ” Pomeroy said at Monday night’s commission meeting.  He said his response has always been, “Well, no we don’t.”
But, as it turns out, they do.  Expenses in the city’s water department have nearly doubled in the last six years, while revenue from the sale of water has continued to fall, according to city documents.
Commissioners voted 4-1 Monday night in favor of raising the rates.  The average resident and business, using less than 6,000 gallons of water per month, will see a $2.84 increase to their water bill by the end of the upcoming fiscal year.  
The fee will be split into two installments, the first coming in November, according to a report from the city.  A third increase may come in the 2011/2012 fiscal year in the amount $1.34 for residents and $1.40 for commercial operations, and that still doesn’t account for about $90,000 out of balance in the water department that year. The tax also increases as residents and businesses use more than 6,000 gallons per month.
Water revenues are down, according to city staff and some commissioners, because water conservation in the city has increased over the years.
“Lots of cities are having trouble with people conserving water,” Pomeroy said.
Commissioner Sammy Cason, who made the motion to approve the resolution, said, “The water rate has not been raised in seven years.  It’s a modest increase.”
Cason also said he’s hopeful the proposed construction of a Chiefland hospital will increase water usage.
Commissioner Rollin Hudson, the only one to oppose the resolution, reiterated questions he posed to the commission and city staff last meeting about how the expenditures for the water department could have doubled over the last few years.
In that meeting, on Aug. 30, City Manager Grady Hartzog said the increase to the department’s expenditures were mostly due to the lease and purchase of land and drilling associated with Chiefland’s new well site.
At Monday’s meeting, Hartzog said about $118,000 has been spent over the last three years just to extend water lines to the new well site.  The project is still incomplete, but Hartzog said finishing it would increase the potential to sell water.
“We’re gonna’ pick up all the customers on the north end,” he told Hudson.
After the meeting, Hartzog said the project could add about 30 customers, most of them commercial.  The city currently serves about 1,200 customers.

In other matters:

* Mayor Teal Pomeroy and Vice-Mayor Teresa Barron were sworn in by Levy County Judge James T. “Tim” Browning at Monday night’s meeting.  Pomeroy ran unopposed in the recent election for the group 2 seat.  Barron, the incumbent, ran against former mayor Betty Walker for the group 4 seat and won by 44 votes.
The commission also voted 5-0 in favor of keeping Pomeroy as mayor and Barron as vice-mayor.  Commissioner Rollin Hudson made the motion.
    Pomeroy later said, “I’m honored to be mayor again.  Thank y’all.”
    Barron said, “And me, as the vice-mayor.”