Tampa City Council members voted Thursday night in favor of the city’s largest infrastructure project yet: a $2.9 billion overhaul of the city’s aging water and sewer systems.
Under the new plan, area residents will see the average residential bill increase from $41 to around $80 a month by 2028. Customers can expect to see an increase in their monthly water bills as early as November, when the average bill will increase by about $5.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor hopes that the plan will help slow and eventually end the number of water main breaks and sewer line cave-ins that have long plagued the city. Over 3,500 such incidents have been reported over the past two years.
“Our water and wastewater pipe systems and treatment plans are old and need a replacement. You know, some of this equipment is reaching a hundred years old,” said Tampa Wastewater Director Eric Weiss.
To stay ahead of future repair needs, the city is introducing a base water rate. Weiss said they're currently one of the only utilities in Florida that doesn't use such a charge, instead relying on a “pay what you use” model.
“Eighty percent of our costs are fixed,” said Weiss. “No matter how much water and wastewater that we treat and handle, we still have those fixed costs. What a base charge does is help guarantee that we have those minimum costs to run our business.”
For families that may struggle to meet the increase, the city says it will offer help.
About 30,000 single families that make less than 30% of the area’s median income are eligible to have their base charges waived, and receive advice and free water-saving devices to help reduce their monthly bill.
Castor’s PIPES (Progressive Infrastructure Planning to Ensure Sustainability) Program passed by a 6-1 vote, with Councilman John Dingfelder being the only vote against it. He cited concerns over the program’s 20-year length.