JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Jackson County water system has a long list of problems caused by Hurricane Michael, old age, the demands of growth, and more. To make repairs, the county’s utility department said they must impose a rate increase on customers.
Or, the county could turn the system over to the city of Marianna, which claims it can keep rates the same.
“There have been informal discussions for a long period of time between Jackson County and the city of Marianna,” Chairman of Board of Commissioners Paul Donofro said. “Marianna has a fairly large water and waste system. Currently, the city of Marianna treats all of the sewer from county sewer customers and there has been talk and conversation sessions informal about the city just basically taking over the county utilities and operating as one utility.”
County commissioners said a city take-over is not without its problems. The negotiations between the two could take up to a year. Utility officials said they don’t have that long.
“We’ve got this loan agreement that’s basically would come about as a result of the rate increases and there are some timelines associated with that that may not correspond with that you know six to eight-month negotiation phase,” Donofro said.
Commissioner Jim Peacock also pointed out that selling water can be a profit center.
“I am opposed to it, for the simple reason, I do not think my constituents would want the county to give away $30 or $40 million worth of assets,” Peacock said. “If the county retains this, it will become a revenue stream for the county. We are in dire need of revenue.”
If the county decides to move ahead on its own, it could mean significant increases in water rates.
“The rates would increase the first year roughly from about $50 to roughly $75,” Donofro said. “The second year there would be another fairly large increase and then from that point forward, it would increase 3% every year until we elected to to not do that, but those 3% increases would basically just be cost of living and cost of doing business expense increases.”
That’s an approximate 40% increase in current rates. The county will hold a public hearing meeting next month on a possible rate increase.