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Richard Corcoran, Wilton Simpson oppose water rate hike

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Two legislative leaders are asking the state’s utility regulators to “follow the law” and deny a request by a water utility serving parts of Marion, Pasco and Seminole counties to increase its rates.

State Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican slated to become House Speaker after the 2016 elections, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Trilby Republican who chairs the Community Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to the state’s Public Service Commission on Thursday.

Illinois-based Utilities Inc. had filed a request with the Commission to increase its water rate by 33.8 percent in Marion County, 21.8 percent in Pasco County and 2 percent in Seminole County, according to its filing.

The utility said it wants to recover lost revenue “due to irrigation customers installing their own wells and discontinuing irrigation service in Pasco County,” recover the cost of replaced lines in Marion County’s Golden Hills subdivision, Summertree “water quality improvements” in Pasco County, and the “Crystal Lake I Ravenna Park interconnection” in Seminole County.

Corcoran and Simpson reminded commissioners of the Consumer Water Protection Act, which became law in 2014.

“Our constituents had been subjected to multiple rate increases by this monopoly, and there were serious issues with the secondary standards of the water coming into their homes,” the letter said. “The taste, color and smell were far from ideal and the prices were high when compared to the neighboring communities and the state average.”

They said the “legislative intent of The Consumer Water Protection Act of 2014 was clear: protect Florida’s consumers from paying high prices for substandard water.”

“This utility’s complete disregard for these consumers is very upsetting, but not altogether surprising,” they said. “The law does not require the utility to consider the public interest or that the utility provide solutions that are in the customers best interest.”

The letter concluded by reminding commissioners to “follow the law,” adding that if they or their staff “are under the impression that the law would allow a rate increase under this set of facts, please rest assured: it does not.”

A Utilities Inc. spokesman could not be reached Thursday evening.

In all, three “public customer meetings” have been scheduled on the matter:

  • 9 a.m. April 12 at Summertree Recreation Facility, 12005 Paradise Point Way, New Port Richey.
  • 6 p.m. April 12 at West Pasco Government Center, Commission Chambers Board Room, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey.
  • 6 p.m. April 13 at Marion County Commission Auditorium, McPherson Complex, 601 SE 25th Ave., Ocala.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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