The Gainesville City Council unanimously adopted a higher set of water fees Tuesday, but not without opposition from a state legislator.
The fees, which pertain to specific services the utility provides, are not intended for a profit, according to Gainesville Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall.
Instead, the fees are set to recuperate the department’s costs of providing services, such as turning on and off water service and connecting customers to the sewer system. The city last changed the fees in 2002, and a recent "cost of service" analysis indicated that some fees needed to be raised.
The fees required two council votes before adoption. Before the council took the issue to final vote Tuesday, state Rep. James Mills addressed the council, imploring them to "give it every consideration."
"I know I’m in the same situation you’re at trying to find money to operate government and at the same time trying to not put a burden on our citizens ..." Mills said. "... Something that may seem a small increase to justify what we think might be a cost-basis might be something that puts a business under right now, during these times."
Mills said he did not want to see fees increased and asked why some fees were higher for county residents than they were for city residents.
One monthly fee the utility department proposed, and the council adopted, included a monthly fee for businesses with fire sprinkler systems — a fee county businesses are required to pay but city residents are not.
"I would ask you to do the people outside the city limits the same that we’re going to do inside the city limits," Mills said.
"I feel like, you know, you’ve got to pay to pipe lines out to county residents. The city had the foresight to get in the water business years ago when the county didn’t, and you know you deserve a certain benefit for that, but not an over-the-top benefit."
Mayor Myrtle Figueras responded that the lower fees for city residents and businesses were part of "the beauty of being in the city."
At the request of the council, Randall addressed Mills’ comments.
"We want a user fee system so that we don’t have to have all of our typical customers subsidizing specific uses," Randall said.
"... If somebody comes in and actually uses a service, which y’all have asked us, is recover that cost from that particular individual. Don’t have everybody else subsidize that particular issue. That’s what we’ve done here."
The council voted 4-0 to approve the fees. Councilman George Wangemann was not present at the meeting.