- July 13, 2022
As Manatee County prepares to adopt its fiscal year 2020 budget Sept. 17, the Manatee County Public Utilities System seeks to increase its rates by 1.4% starting Jan. 1, 2020. The increase translates into an average $1.06 per month on a residential customer’s monthly bill and brings that cost to $76.91 per month based on water usage of 6,000 gallons. Rate increases of between 4% and 5% have occurred each year since 2015.
The utilities department oversees cleaning and distributing drinking water, sanitizing wastewater and converting it into reclaimed water, and providing trash and recycling pickup in unincorporated Manatee County. It also provides partial funding for stormwater management, though stormwater issues are handled by the Public Works Department.
Potable (drinking) water, wastewater and solid waste (trash and recycling) all are self funded by user and other fees and do not require any money from the county’s general revenues. There is currently no designated funding source for stormwater.
Utilities Director Mike Gore said the increase will fund continued investment in infrastructure, add employees, maintain current level of reserves and keep rates affordable for customers.
Gore said the system is growing — for example, the department is adding about 3,000 water/wastewater accounts per year — and has included $570,141 in its budget for seven new positions, such as workers to service and repair sewer lines and technicians to locate underground utility lines. In fiscal year 2020, the system also plans to spend about $28.6 million on planned infrastructure improvements to meet ongoing maintenance needs and future demands for potable water, wastewater and solid waste.
In total, $199.3 million in capital improvements is planned for water, wastewater and solid waste over the next five years.
Here is a snapshot of the operations:
POTABLE (drinking) WATER
Manatee County, which has a fiscal year 2020 budget of $21.5 million, provides drinking water to more than 350,000 residents and municipal customers. On average, it treats 40 million gallons of water per day and transports that water through more than 2,000 miles of pipeline.
Over the past five years, Manatee County has invested $18.2 million for a first phase of repairs at the Lake Manatee Dam, $19.9 million for its biological treatment unit and $15.8 on distribution and system enhancements.
Future projects include another $15 million on dam repairs, $20.3 million on growth-related projects and $10 million on converting old water meters to automated ones.
Manatee County, which has a fiscal year 2020 budget of $34.7 million, provides wastewater services to nearly 300,000 residents and municipal customers and treats an average of 22 million gallons of waste per day. The collection system consists of more than 1,700 miles of pipeline and 675 lift stations.
Underground pipes take used water from homes and businesses to lift stations, which pump the waste to one of three water reclamation facilities countywide. There, scientists use filters, bacteria and other processes to rid water of solid waste and nutrients. After nutrient levels are reduced to acceptable levels, the water can be recycled as reclaimed water and used to irrigate landscapes throughout the county.
Over the past five years, Manatee County spent $23.8 million on enhancing nitrogen removal capabilities at its Southwest Water Reclamation Facility, $67.7 million on treatment plant repair and replacement and $41 million on collections systems repair and replacement.
In the coming years, it plans to spend $62.2 million on treatment plant repair and replacement, $62.5 million on collections systems repair-and-replace projects and $16.05 million on growth projects.
Manatee County’s solid waste program, which has a fiscal year 2020 budget of $41.2 million, manages 418,000 tons of material delivered to the Lena Road landfill annually. Collection services, through contracted haulers, are provided for 140,000 residential and 6,000 commercial accounts.
Manatee County has an estimated 24.6 years of use left at its Lena Road Landfill. Manatee County’s Solid Waste Division will hold a workshop with Manatee County commissioners Sept. 17 about its master plan for solid waste.
Fees from water/wastewater and solid waste for fiscal year 2020 are expected to bring in $28.7 million.
From July 2018 to June 2019, the utilities’ business operations department mailed more than 1.53 million bills and handled 141,973 calls, 33,813 emails and 64,401 counter transactions.
The Utilities Department’s business operations program supports the water, wastewater and solid waste operations through customer service for the call center and cashiering, billing, collections, accounting, fiscal services, warehouse, business system support, safety and communications, GIS, infrastructure locates group and utility records.
It is in the exploratory stage of whether it should have offices in the eastern portion of the county to better serve its customer base.