Merger of water utilities is rejected

By Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer

Published Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TAMPA — A proposal to consolidate water utilities in Hillsborough County appears to be dead.

Tampa officials say they don't see the idea as viable at this time. And the Hillsborough County commissioner who proposed it acknowledged that probably kills the proposition.

"It's disappointing," County Commissioner Jim Norman said. "I think the idea is still there and can be taken up by future administrations."

But he said he doesn't see his proposal moving forward right now without the city of Tampa on board.

Norman had proposed essentially merging the county's water and sewer utilities with those in Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. Combining the utilities, he said, would cut overhead costs and save money for customers while enabling each community to address challenges they don't have money to deal with now.

Commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 4 to spend up to $400,000 evaluating the proposal using outside consultants.

Steve Daignault, Tampa's administrator for public works and utilities services, said he didn't see the plan saving money for utility customers or even keeping rates flat in the long term. So it was hard to justify spending so much money on an evaluation, even if the county was willing to pay the upfront costs, he added.

"We just didn't think pursuing it at this time was in their best interests or ours," Daignault said.

Bill Varian can be reached at or (813) 226-3387.

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