JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Jackson County’s water and sewer customers will be paying higher rates.

County commissioners said they had no choice as they struggle to decide how to make their system profitable.

They are debating whether or not to sell a multi-million dollar wastewater system to the city or continue to operate as a county system.

“The State of Florida, several years ago decided that they would fund the sewer system to go around, Merritt’s Mill Pond, commonly known as Blue Springs and they did that to lower the nitrates in the spring and, they have spent probably a good $20 million between Blue Springs and Indian Springs, so I know they’ve got roughly $17 million in Indian Springs alone.”

Peacock believes selling the system to Marianna will cause problems.

He said it will also forfeit growth opportunities for the county.

“We have had our systems since approximately 1998 and we are finally becoming solvent. We’re getting enough people on board that it can become solvent and then, you know, our administrations wanting to ditch it,” Peacock said. “I think it’s a bad idea and I will oppose it to the end.”

But Jackson County Commissioner Paul Donofro said if they don’t sell the system, they’ll be forced to raise customer rates.

“The system historically has lost money in the amount of several hundred thousand dollars every year that we’re losing in order to turn that into an enterprise operation,” Donofro said. “In other words, so that the system is actually making money or at least breaking even and not losing money.”

Donofro said the county is already paying Marianna to treat its sewage at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“My main opinion on this is that by combining a very, a very small system, which the county has a very small system with a very small service area, by combining that with the city system, which is a small system but a moderately small system, we would be operating two systems more efficiently through economy of scale.”

During their meeting Tuesday, commissioners decided to enter into a memorandum of understanding, allowing Marianna to continue to explore the idea of merging the two systems.

They also decided to raise their rates to the county’s utility customers.