City Council takes first step in hiking utility bills
St. Pete City Council approved on first reading an increase in utility fees. The city’s utility department is asking for a $2.85 overall increase spread across potable water, wastewater and reclaimed water fees. That would be a 2.71 percent hike from fees in fiscal year 2015.
Two council members, Darden Rice and Will Newton, voted against the increase. And their no votes could gain traction between now and the second reading.
Rice called in to question whether the department deserved more money, given the recent wastewater dump into Clam Bayou that has earned the city gobs of negative press. There were also past screw-ups, including the premature closing of the Albert Whitted water treatment facility and the so-called “KKK” scandal in which a wastewater employee spray-painted the offensive letters onto a co-worker’s shirt and was suspended without pay rather than being fired.
“I just can’t see rewarding bad outcomes with giving the department more money,” Rice said. “I want to see improvements before we go to taxpayers.”
In all council spent about an hour discussing St. Pete utility services. Steve Kornell suggested the department look at ways to answer detailed questions about the city’s sewage facilities. He scoffed when staff members pointed out that all three of the city’s water facilities would be underwater if a hurricane hit.