At its March 28 board meeting, the Holley-Navarre Water System board of directors voted to raise water rates to customers by 17.5 percent. The vote came at a rescheduled meeting of the board with only one member of the public in attendance.
“I feel like we are taking advantage of our members,” said board member and past president Daryl Lynchard during discussion of the motion. “We are taking this vote at a rescheduled meeting time and there is no one here from the public to speak on this issue. The last time we brought this up, this room was full of people.”
But his words were not enough to stop the vote, and the increase will become effective May 1. Lynchard and Vice-President James Calkins voted against the increase. Calkins said he ran for the board position to oppose the rate increase.
The vote comes on the heels of a controversial decision by the water company to increase the health- insurance benefit coverage to employees and extend the same coverage to the company-owned golf course employees. In July 2015, changes to the coverage were made to include the entire cost of premiums for the single employee or employee and family. In addition, single employees’ health-savings account payments received from HNWS increased from $1,500 to $3,000 and the same payments for married employees increased to $6,000 annually. At that time, the company sent out a letter to its customers stating they were planning a rate increase because of the rising costs of health insurance.
At the March 28 board meeting, board President Bien May applauded the engineering team and administrative staff for putting forth a plan that “took the increase down from 25 percent to 17.5 percent.” Board member Robert Coley wanted to clarify the reasons behind the increase, stating it had nothing to do with any personnel or human resource issue, including the new health-care package purchased for the employees. “This is to fund the capital improvement plan and has nothing to do with the health insurance,” Coley said.
A $21.5 million capital improvement plan was approved at the meeting and later a public relations firm sent out a press release. The release states that the capital improvement plan is needed in order to meet the utility’s growing customer base and to continue to supply adequate water pressure to its 14,000 customers.
Holley-Navarre Water System contends that the demand on the system “has become strained to the point that without improvements HNWS may be forced to cease providing wastewater connections to new customers in the future. In addition, according to the release, without new infrastructure HNWS will fail to meet the stringent quality and environmental standards imposed by federal and state regulators.
Starting May 1, 2016, the average water system customer will see a $4.90 monthly increase. The average water and wastewater system user will see an overall increase of $12.57 per month.
A five-year master improvement plan developed by HNWS management and a group of engineering consultants, calls for extensive infrastructure construction. The essential improvements include creation of a treated wastewater pipeline into the Eglin Reservation and a major disposal facility for the wastewater system. The plan also requires a considerable expansion of the water system, including a large storage facility and booster pumping station.
New Holley-Navarre Water System
rates effective May 1
Water Rates: Wastewater Rates:
Base Rate $4.70 Base Rate $24.68
<10,000 Gal/1,000 – $4.05 Per 1,000 Gal $3.82
>10,000 Gal/1,000 – $4.99
Read the full article in the April 7 issue of Navarre Press. Click HERE to subscribe online.