By Matt Wiley
A new year is expected to bring changes, but most Pebble Creek residents didn’t expect a water rate hike to be among them.
Since January 8, Pebble Creek residents have been paying more for their water than in years past. However, while small rate hikes are not uncommon with private utility companies, such as Pebble Creek’s Pluris Utilities (see below), depending upon usage, some residents are experiencing rates that are significantly higher than in previous years.
During a Pebble Creek Home Owners Association (HOA) meeting in the Pebble Creek clubhouse on January 14, HOA president Dan Logan fielded questions from a full room of concerned and upset residents.
“The main issue is that Pebble Creek residents were sent a notice that their water rates would go up,” Logan explains. “Rate hikes are not unusual, but some residents’ rates have doubled and even tripled.”
Pluris, a Dallas-based utility company, is Pebble Creek’s water provider, even though the other communities surrounding Pebble Creek receive their water directly from the City of Tampa. The water actually is pumped to Pebble Creek through city pipes, but is managed by Pluris once it enters the pipelines underneath the community.
“The residents feel like there are no options,” says Logan. “With cable, there are plenty of choices, but this feels like a monopoly because we can’t turn anywhere else for water service.”
Pluris will have to show the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners that its hikes are “reasonable and acceptable,” says District 2 County Commissioner Victor Crist.
“I’m looking to Pluris to prove to me that these rates are really necessary,” Crist says. “What’s the reason here, aside from profits? I agree with Pebble Creek. I’m very skeptical.”
Although not yet scheduled at our press time, Commissioner Crist says a public hearing will be scheduled for Pebble Creek residents to voice their opinions on the rate hike once the county finishes an audit review and can analyze the numbers.
During the HOA meeting, Logan showed a presentation to residents demonstrating the difference in water rates, based upon the interim rate hike from Pluris. The interim rate isn’t necessarily the final hike that Pluris is requesting from the County. However, regardless of whether or not commissioners approve the requested hike, residents have been paying an increased rate since January 8. If the final rate that is approved by the county is less than the interim rate, residents will be issued a refund for the difference.
Prior to the interim rate going into effect, Logan says, Pebble Creek residents were paying a base charge of $16.54, which, since the interim rate hike, has been raised to $18.98, a 15-percent increase. Residents also used to pay $2.55 per 1,000 gallons of water used. They now pay $4.51, a 77-percent increase. And, if any utility customer uses more than 9,000 gallons, the rate used to go up to $3.56; but that rate is now $6.69 per gallon, an 88-percent increase.
Pluris had not returned calls for comment at our press time.
The Pebble Creek HOA urges residents to make sure that all water-related complaints and issues go to the Florida Public Service Commission at FloridaPSC.com or 1-800-342-3552.