Assistant County Attorney Geri Bonzon-Keenan read the foregoing discussion item into the record.
Commissioner Diaz noted he asked Mr. John Renfrow, Director, Water and Sewer Department (WASD), to address issues regarding the Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) and the requirements mandated by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
Chairman Gimenez said the Committee had asked Mr. Renfrow to re-evaluate issues regarding the CUP as the County was committing billions of dollars in infrastructure based on assumptions that had not materialized. He noted less water was being used and questioned whether the infrastructure improvements were necessary considering they would result in an increase in water rates for residents of this community.
Commissioner Diaz said the CUP water issue was a leverage for other counties and a way to stop construction growth. He noted the situation had changed drastically and yet the pressure still existed. Commissioner Diaz said he felt this was wrong and believed the SFWMD was reverting back to its old ways.
Commissioner Sosa said the guidelines and mandates imposed on the County by SFWMD were different than the mandates for other counties; and that the mandates should be consistent throughout. She noted residents of municipalities were questioning why the County was increasing water rates by 73% and this needed to be reviewed.
Commissioner Martinez noted capital improvement projects needed to be paid for and he pointed out that at the last Budget Hearing he voted against the six-percent water rate increase. Commissioner Martinez noted the County Commission had two choices: approve projects and the water rate increase, or not approve projects and the water rate increase. He said the County charged municipalities a wholesale rate of $2.00 and a retail rate of approximately $3.00; however, the municipalities charged their residents a higher rate. Commissioner Martinez suggested the message that needed to be conveyed to residents was that municipalities, not the County were responsible for increased water rates.
Chairman Gimenez asked Mr. Renfrow to provide the Committee members with a chart of retail water rates charged to residents of the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area versus areas that were not a part of the County’s system, such as the City of Hialeah and other municipalities with lower water rates. He asked Mr. Renfrow to provide the Committee members with a schedule of the SFWMD Board meetings, and recommended that Committee members select a date to discuss a plan to reduce capital expenditures with that Board.
Mr. Renfrow said the SFWMD Governing Board would be holding a meeting on Thursday, January 14, 2010, at the Village of Key Biscayne. He noted it was his understanding that commissioners were notified about this meeting. Mr. Renfrow said he was required to provide an update to the SFWMD Board every six months on the Water Use Permits (WUPs). He noted the water demand had decreased due to the County’s water conservation efforts, and the demand no longer existed for projects which required the WUP to be done at a certain date. Mr. Renfrow said he would be proposing to the SFWMD Board that these dates be modified and that projects requiring a WUP be deferred due to the decrease in demand. This would result in $12.6 million in eliminated projects and over $1 billion in deferred projects.
Commissioner Diaz said that his office was not notified of the SFWMD Board meeting. He asked Mr. Renfrow to inform commissioners of issues relating to the SFWMD, and to provide all commissioners with a report on the outcome of the Governing Board meeting.
Commissioner Martinez noted an email was forwarded to Commission District 11 on Friday, January 8, 2010, regarding the SFWMD Board meeting.
Government Operations Committee
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