A May 21 public hearing will see the adoption of new water rates to allow the Florida city to expand its reclaimed water system and conserve more expensive potable water. As a result of the multi-phase expansion, golf courses that use reclaimed water could see rates jump up to 58%, while courses that do not use reclaimed water would see a jump of up to 441%.
Golf courses in Naples, Fla., that rely on reclaimed water could see water rates increase anywhere from 4 to 58 percent, while the two properties that do not use reclaimed water will see a jump of 109 to 441 percent, when new rates are adopted in May, the Naples (Fla.) Daily News reported.
Naples City Council reviewed water rate alternatives at its March 19 meeting in preparation for a May 21 public hearing, when new rates to allow the city to expand its reclaimed water system and conserve more expensive potable water will be adopted, the News reported.
The city estimates it will need $3 million yearly for its expansion, which will be done in small phases, installing pipes, the News reported.
The discount debate is expected to bring in droves of golf course representatives, the city’s bulk users, who want their rates to stay low. The discount, which totals nearly $180,000 yearly, is subsidized by potable water users and is offered to 11 courses, some outside city limits, the News reported.
Citing concern over the hefty discount, Councilman Doug Finlay has asked city officials to research why it was offered so council can determine if it’s still justified. But golf course representatives say if they hadn’t agreed to use reclaimed water to irrigate greens in the 1980s, Naples couldn’t have expanded its recycled water system, the News reported.
“We made it possible for them to grow by being part of it from the beginning,” said Dale Walters, golf course superintendent for The Moorings Country Club. “We were concerned in the beginning that it would be too expensive. But we looked at it as a way to help the community by taking the water.”
At times, Walters said, the reclaimed water was “terrible,” prompting golf courses to pay more to treat it themselves due to high salt levels that harmed grass, the News reported.
“Our water lines have been in place for all these years, so why should we be paying for expansion?” Walters asked. “I can see an increase. You need increases, but do they need to be dramatic about it—so we’re paying to expand their system?”
Port Royal resident Marvin Easton, a retired IBM executive whose governmental expertise is sought out by council members, questions the discounted rate, 39 cents per 1,000 gallons, compared with 67 cents paid by single family, multifamily, government and commercial users, the News reported.
Under an analysis and proposal by the city’s consultant, Burton & Associates, the discount would increase to 41 cents, by 53 percent. In comparison, other users would pay 87 cents per 1,000 gallons, including the $120 yearly availability-connection fee, the News reported.
But Easton points out that until 4½ years ago, golf courses effectively received reclaimed water for free, at $1 per acre, the News reported.
“I have no objection to raising the residential rate 30 percent. The question is why should golf courses pay half the rate others do?” Easton asked. “I believe golf courses deserve a price less than the residential users. The question is how much less.”
Adding to the debate, council also will discuss whether golf courses should have two rate structures, giving those with storage—retention ponds—a bigger discount: They’d pay 38 cents per 1,000 gallons versus 48 cents, the News reported.
A 39 percent discount was offered because golf courses could turn off reclaimed water if the city was short, Easton said, asking, “In the last 2½ years, has any golf course been turned off for a day? The answer is no.”
In contrast, Councilman Sam Saad understands the golf course representatives’ worries, noting, “They’ve been crash test dummies for the whole system and they just want to get their costs recovered.”