Starting in January, Sarasota residents and business owners will see a variety of changes in water rates, part of which will go toward the funding to rehabilitate and expand the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility.
Four new changes will take effect after the Sarasota County Commission’s unanimous approval Tuesday.
The first would be a monthly $1 charge for all wastewater customers per one equivalent dwelling unit, or single-family home. Commercial unit prices would be based on building size.
Additionally, the county will increase fees charged by the utilities department for new developments and new connections to county water. Water facilities capacity fee will increase $230 per EDU, which makes the total fee $2,950. Wastewater facility capacity fee will increase by $562.84, totaling $3,190.
In July, the board adopted a fats, oils and grease management program to ensure proper disposal. The county will begin charging commercial establishments, such as restaurants and schools, excluding Sarasota County Schools, $16.67 a month.
Commissioner Nancy Detert questioned whether all businesses would have to pay the rate and stated some say they take care of the problem themselves.
Director of Public Utilities Mike Mylett said every company would pay the rate, but existing facilities would not have to pay to update their current grease management systems. Instead, facility improvements would take place when the business “undergoes change,” either by changing hands or being remodeled.
The final change comes in the form of an annual 5% increase to wastewater rates, which will help fund the expansion and upgrades at the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility.
The facility, at 5500 Lorraine Road, has spilled more than 38 million gallons of reclaimed water since August, which was treated enough to spread on lawns but not enough to drink.
Money from the fee, which would bring a typical water bill from $45 to just under $58 in five years, will help pay off the county’s 30-year $170 million bond to pay for the Bee Ridge facility.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler proposed an amendment that would tie the rate increase to the bond. Then when the debt is paid, residents would no longer be charged. Originally, the rate increase did not have a sunset date.
Commissioners emphasized the need for the increases to pay for critical upgrades.
“People have to understand … this is necessary,” Commissioner Alan Maio said. “It’s the only way we can pay for these sort of things.
The wastewater quality fee, wastewater rate increase and fats, oils and grease management rates will go into effect Jan. 1. The capacity fee increase will go into effect Jan. 8.