OUA rates won’t increase

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Utility Authority (OUA) took steps to improve the taste of our drinking water and began discussions on the proposed 2017-2018 fiscal year budget when they met for the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 13.

The board approved the tentative fiscal year budget which currently includes no increases in water or waste water rates for customers. The proposal predicts a 1.31 percent increase in revenues. Total revenue is projected at $10.09 million. The budget also predicts a 3.3 percent increase in expenditures.

The major increase in costs is a 41 percent increase in chemicals at the Surface Water Treatment Plant. The utility has added more chemicals to try and improve the taste of the water.

The proposed budget does not include any cost of living adjustment for employees. It does include 1.5 percent for merit raises that will cost $46,000 and employee bonuses that total $40,000.

Capital project spending would total $7.1 million.

The board decided to move the monthly board meetings to the county court house board of county commissioners chambers, provided a written agreement is signed by both the county and the OUA. The agreement will be voted on in July and the first meeting would be held on Tuesday, Aug. 8. The meeting will be taped delayed and placed on the OUA website. The trial arrangement would last until the end of 2017.

The board approved a $51,111 change order with Go Underground Utilities, Inc. for the final payment on the Pine Ridge Park Water System Improvements. The total project cost is $447,765.

The board approved the purchase of a 2017 Kubota mini excavator under a Florida Sheriff’s Association bid for $39,538 from Futch’s Tractor Depot in Hastings, Fla.

The board approved a $70,616 repair bill for the ozone generator at the Surface Water Treatment Plant. The generator is the final treatment that removes taste, odors and color from the drinking water.

Executive Director John Hayford said low water levels often lead to algae blooms in the lake which impacts the taste and quality of OUA drinking water.

“We would like to produce the best product available. By using the generator we can go back to removing the odor and color from the water column,” he added.

Fin-Tek O3UV was hired to do the repairs.

The board also authorized Thomas Hammer to file an electronic application to the State of Florida for an historical grant to restore the OUA offices, known as the 1929 Peoples Bank.

OUA officials said they would like earlier notification from the county when they do drainage projects that impact utility lines. He said most of the blame goes to county consultants and not county staff.

“It would be at least nice to have the consideration,” Hayford said. “We get these notifications after the fact. Let’s try not to have this happen again.”

Board member Melanie Anderson said she felt Buckhead Ridge needs to continue to have representation on the OUA Board.

Harry Moldenhauer said Beach Water put in infrastructure and also helped to pay the costs of building the system and still have rate payers who contribute.

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