PORT RICHEY — Irrigation rates will go down over the next four months for Port Richey utility customers.
After a barrage of complaints when higher rates went into effect in November, city council members voted to create a new tier with a lower rate effective from April through the end of July.
Irrigation customers who live within the city limits could get a break with the lower rate of $7.01 per 1,000 gallons used, up to 8,000 gallons. From 8,001 to 12,000 gallons, the rate would remain $9.12 per 1,000 gallons used.
Utility customers outside city limits pay a surcharge. The rate will be $8.76 per 1,000 gallons for the new tier up to 8,000 gallons. The rate then goes to $11.40 for up to 12,000 gallons.
City officials had determined at the March 11 council meeting that they wanted to give customers some limited relief. New rates for water and sewer services had caught some customers off guard after restructured rates went into effect Nov. 15.
Late last year, council members voted for one-time relief on bills for some 134 customers who did not adjust lawn watering habits. One person received a bill that shot up to $213 from about $48, Councilman Steve O’Neill said in December.
Residents complained the city gave little notice about higher rates, basically a brief blurb at the bottom of statements mailed about a month or so before the changes. Several residents said they did not see the note.
Some residents excessively irrigate their lawns, council members also agreed. In one instance a customer used 66,000 gallons of water in one billing cycle, City Manager Tom O’Neill reported.
Raising rates was not a “snap judgment,” Councilman Bill Colombo commented in December. Council members studied the issue for more than a year and held numerous meetings.
The Port Richey utility had not raised rates in 10 years, Steve O’Neill said. That meant the city utility was operating below costs, the city manager said.