Winter Springs water bills will more than DOUBLE over the next 5 years without a workable plan to fix our water utility

At last night’s Commission meeting, Winter Springs city leaders approved on first reading a plan to drastically increase our water without a workable plan to fix the systemic issues with our water system. Over the next five years, residents will be paying approximately twice as much for water as they are today, if the plan continues to move forward, as it likely will with a second reading at the next meeting. All of this is being done under the guise of improving our water system, even though there is no workable plan to actually fix the problems plaguing our city.

Jesse Phillips, President of the Winter Springs Community Association, made the following statement about tonight’s hearing:

“Winter Springs has a vibrant retirement community on fixed incomes and a growing working class. Last night, the city telegraphed its intent on moving forward with a plan which will inflict tremendous financial hardship on those who can least afford it. The actions of the city are heavy on financial pain and light on details of how they are going to actually fix the problems with our water system they’ve spent the last five years denying existed. The city’s head isn’t half way out of the sand and they’ve got their hands deeper into our pockets. Rate increases of this magnitude should be put on hold until the audits complete, including the state’s JLAC audit. The rampant mismanagement of our city’s finances must be addressed and proper order restored.”

Background Info:

  • The plan calls for $167 million in improvements, requiring at least $100 million in up-front construction costs. The water bill increases will not even come close to covering these up front costs. The city has no viable plans in place and very few options for outside funding to generate the cash necessary to start construction since the city financial audits for last year are still not completed (almost 10 months late).
  • The only plan proposed to date addresses the need for acquiring the land to build a new water plant is a land swap deal in the Highlands which would permit the development of the Highlands area former Winter Springs Golf Course. This plan would bring approximately 500 new high-density multi-family homes in exchange for the ten acre property needed to build a new water plant. This deal would rescind the long-standing conservation easement displacing 175 acres of wildlife and beautiful foliage from SR 434 to Lake Jesup. Additionally, the development would add at least 1,000 additional cars and congestion entering and exiting SR 434 twice per day.
  • This water bill increases come on the heels of the additional hardship of the city’s decision to drastically increase the trash service rates on residents, creating an unnecessary $1 million slush fund which is not necessary for a service contract. Specifically, the cost of garbage service would increase 59% in the next two years, with Waste Pro only receiving a 65 cent increase. Why? This is a great question.
  • This major financial decision is being made in the midst of county and state audits which have raised questions on the city’s mismanagement of its finances, questionable transfers of enterprise funds, and the city’s failure to submit financial audits as required by state law. Simply stated, there are no assurances that OUR money will be properly spent, or that residents will be able to know how the money is really being spent.
  • The city cannot decide on a City Manager and its finance director recently resigned as the state audit hearings loom on December 4th. Shouldn’t a decision with this degree of magnitude on the residents be made with qualified people making the decisions?