GREEN COVE SPRINGS - With electric, stormwater and wastewater capital improvements already checked off the list, the city’s capital improvement plan continued with a proposed increase in water rates supported by council members.
Council members heard a water rate study from Mittauer and Associates. City residents will see a rate increase between 2-5 percent from 2020-2028 to enable the city to fund five water projects through loans. According to Mittauer, user and base rates would increase 2 percent in 2020-2021, 3.5 percent in 2022, 4 percent in 2023, and 5 percent per year from 2024-2028. The estimated revenues for the city are between $1.6-2.1 million a year from 2019-2028.
The council directed staff to draft an ordinance, needing approval in two readings, authorizing staff to acquire loans for capital projects and contacting the city’s financial advisor who would draft a request for proposal to secure a loan.
Mittauer’s Jason Shepler said the first priority of five was Reynolds Park.
“There are some near-term needs that need to be addressed,” Shepler said. “There’s fire suppression, fire hydrant replacement and there’s three mains that go under State Road 16 at the moment that have been problematic for the city.”
The other projects include improving service in Magnolia Point, upgrading Reynolds Water Plant, large scale water main improvements and altering infrastructure at Governors Creek.
The monthly base rate for a residential and commercial ¾-inch meter would rise from $11.59 in 2019 to $16.57 in 2028, steadily at about 40 cents a year. In that 10-year span, most charges per thousand gallons would increase by less than 5 cents a year. Shepler estimated connections would increase between .5 percent and 2 percent a year, staying in line with the city’s growth.
Mittauer also accounted for the city residents’ improved water conservation in 2018 compared to 2011. About 74 percent of users consume 6,000 gallons or less, while 90 percent use 12,000 gallons or less.
Shepler compared Green Cove Spring’s average monthly residential water bill at 5,000 gallons to the Town of Orange Park, CCUA, JEA and St. Johns County. The city’s rate was $5.09 lower than Orange Park and $11.57 lower than St. Johns County, according to Mittauer’s figures.
Council Member Mitch Timberlake was pleased with the rates hikes and called it reasonable.
“There’s this rumor running around that our costs are crazy,” Timberlake said. “In fact, when you look at this chart, they’re pretty darn good.”
Council Member Van Royal said he appreciated Mittauer’s thoroughness. The infrastructure improvements had to happen, he said.
“Really $17 to $17.80 (the first year of the rate hikes) isn’t a lot when people get new pipes and fire protection. Sooner or later, you have to pay the piper anyway,” Royal said. “We’re on the right path with the things we’re doing. It’s an investment no different than Spring Park.”