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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

For residents of apartment buildings, drinking water rates may be flooding to a new high.

Gainesville Regional Utilities is submitting a proposal to the City Commission suggesting an increase in drinking water rates for apartment buildings that share one water meter. The proposed hike would raise the price from $2.20 per 1,000 gallons of water to $3.75.

City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said he isn’t sure when commissioners will vote on the proposal, but it is in budget and is being carefully considered. Because the city of Gainesville uses a tiered rate structure, Hawkins said, people who live in apartments and share one water meter are currently at a disadvantage.

“Most apartment complexes, especially the older ones, only have one water meter,” Hawkins said. “People that live in an apartment pay a whole lot more for water than anyone else.”

Apartment buildings divide the water bill among the apartment units individually, Hawkins said.

But if people in some units consume more water than the residents they share a water meter with, they may be charged the lower rate that reflects their neighbors’ water usage.

Because the billing structure doesn’t penalize high water usage per unit, it discourages water conservation, Hawkins said.

The disadvantage of the hike, Hawkins said, is that it may discourage people from choosing to live in an in-town apartment complex, which usually has a master water meter.

“If people are choosing from an in-town apartment complex that only has one meter, versus an out- of -town that has a meter for every apartment, it puts in-town lower on the list,” he said.

Gainesville resident John Fleming, the managing member of Trimark Properties LLC, shared similar concerns.

In an email to the city commission, he wrote that the proposed rate increase would restrict development citywide.

“Properties would be discriminated against based on the meter type that serves them,” he wrote in an email. “All of our land use and zoning codes were developed to encourage denser development in the core of Gainesville … to combat urban sprawl, traffic and parking issues … ”

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Contact Hanna Marcus at hmarcus@alligator.org.

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