BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


Water Infrastructure Inadequate
January 2, 2007, 12:02 AM
Filed under: Development, Infrastructure, Water-Sewer-Sanitation

January 2, 2007

As the new year begins, we hear from Albert Perez, our Public Utilities Director:

“The City of Hollywood’s water treatment plant is inadequate to serve its existing and developing customer base.”

What does this mean?

For some time now, the City Commission has been providing millions of dollars in the form of developer incentives for luxury high-rise condos downtown and on the beach.  The express purpose of much of this development is to lure new residents with ” disposable income,” who will add economic vitality to our city, and help our businesses survive.  In fact, the mayor has proclaimed as part of her legacy bringing this new economic class to Hollywood.

Residents have long questioned whether the infrastructure can support all the planned condo towers and townhouses, and until now those questions have been brushed aside.  Now, the new public utilities director speaks the truth: our infrastructure will not support all this development.

Since the new people with disposable incomes are not yet here in appreciable numbers, it is up to Hollywood’s existing residents to pay for a water plant expansion that will be needed to serve all the new wealth once it does get here.

What is the planned upgrade and what will it cost?   The project entails constructing two new Floridian Aquifer wells and expanding the reverse osmosis treatment facility. The cost is estimated at $2,459,600. Fortunately, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has awarded the city a $1,000,000 grant to help fund this project. Acceptance of this grant is Agenda Item No. 5 on the City Commission’s January 3, 2007 agenda.

Water Fees to Change

An interesting aspect of the SFWMD grant is a requirement that the city enact a water rate structure that promotes conservation and the use of water from “alternative water supplies.”  (Note: Water from Floridian Aquifer wells is considered an “alternative water supply.”) The new rate structure must be in place by June 2007, so we should be hearing more about it fairly soon.

Questions

  • Water rates were raised last October.  Was this expansion project a cost that the increased rates were intended to cover?  Or is this an additional expense?
  • Exactly what is the water treatment plant’s “developing customer base”; specifically how many new people and how many new businesses are we planning to serve?
  • When will we have a water plant master plan that will lay out exactly what needs to be done to provide sufficient water for the foreseeable future?

In the absence of a long-range plan for our public utilities, we have what seems like a piecemeal, often emergency, approach to funding water and sewer capital projects that leaves the public totally in the dark until suddenly a new capital project is required, or yet another rate increase appears on the books.  In short, an updated public utilities master plan is long overdue.  We understand it is in the works but perhaps a year away.

We thank the new Public Utilities Director for a level of truth-telling that was not available during the tenure of his predecessor. We urge him to make completion of a water and sewer master plan a high priority in the new year.

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