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Gainesville may increase service fee instead of water rate

POSTED: August 28, 2014 12:16 p.m.

After deadlocking earlier this month on whether to raise water rates 1 percent, Gainesville City Council will hold another vote to try and end the stalemate Tuesday night.

Council is now considering approving a zero percent rate increase and offsetting the resulting $230,000 loss of revenue with an additional increase in the account service fee, which covers the cost of reading meters, sending bills and related customer service issues.

But the fee increase would hit small-time water users harder, while no increase in the water rate would save large consumers, such as Fieldale Farms and other businesses, thousands of dollars.

If approved, the monthly fee would rise 85 cents, from $4.25 to $5.10.

The original proposal called for just a 65-cent increase. The additional 20 cents will generate about $117,000 in revenue.

Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said the account service fee should actually be $6.15 a month to be fully self-sustaining.

“I don’t have a problem with this,” said Councilman George Wangemann, adding the change was necessary to break the impasse.

Wangemann joined Councilman Sam Couvillon and Mayor Danny Dunagan in opposing the water rate increase at the last council meeting, while council members Ruth Bruner, Bob Hamrick and Myrtle Figueras voted in favor of the increase.

But the latest proposal is far from a done deal.

Bruner still insists the rate increase is a more responsible avenue to take, expressing concern that significant increases will have to be made in the coming years to counter the loss of revenue this year.

And Hamrick acknowledged that raising the account service fee while eliminating a water rate increase benefits large users at the expense of small residential customers.

City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal courtroom at the Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway.


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