From a story on News4Jax: “…a promise made 60 years ago during consolidation to connect neighborhoods on the Northside and Westside to city sewer lines so they wouldn’t have to rely on septic tanks.”
Eye on Jacksonville would like to know:
Who made that promise?
Who did they make it to?
We could find nothing in either our memory or in official records to substantiate that statement.
Consolidation of the city and county governments took place Oct. 1, 1968. In the campaign to sell the idea to the electorate, proponents asserted that it would save money, overall, primarily by reducing the duplication of services.
Since consolidation, the city – and later the JEA, which replaced the city water department in 1997 – extended many miles of sewer lines into unserved areas. Currently, nearly 4,000 miles of sewer lines run under the city, carrying more than 80 million gallons of wastewater every day to four regional treatment plants and seven smaller ones.
There is no evidence that anyone was promised in the 1960s they would be able to hook up and use the service at no cost.
Residents in those areas bought homes at a lower cost. One reason was that they did not have sewer service. Instead, they had septic tanks, which work well when they are installed properly and maintained. When they don’t, they cause pollution.
If those residents are allowed to tap into the sewer system for nothing, the value of their homes will increase – at the expense of other taxpayers.
In fact, many people have declined when presented the opportunity to hook up as the lines have been extended.
In 2002 the city set up an independent authority to help people finance the cost of hooking up to water and sewer lines. For sewers, that cost could run as high as $20,000. The authority was abolished in 2011.
Why not put the cost in the JEA rates? The city answered the question itself:
“The water and/or sewer rates are not nearly enough to pay for septic tank and/or well conversions. JEA uses revenues from monthly sewer billing to properly treat and dispose of sewage and maintain existing sewers that were initially paid for by homeowners. To use this monthly billing from existing sewer customers to connect septic tank owners would not be appropriate since it would be using money from homeowners who paid their costs initially to have JEA sewer services connected. JEA would have to raise the rates of all of its customers to raise the capital to extend JEA water and sewer services to new customers. JEA will not inequitably burden its existing customers with the cost for new construction.”
Typically, the JEA offers a discount and a low-rate loan for the connection cost.
Halfway to the next city elections, politicians already are making noises about providing free sewer service, in the hope of buying a few votes by inequitably burdening existing customers with the cost of new construction.
Some of the noise is coming from a special committee of the City Council, which was created by the Democrat council president and has done little except talk about “racism,” (without showing any evidence of it), and discuss spending Other People’s Money.
In 2016 the city put up $30 million to phase out septic tanks, but the new CEO of the JEA says the bureaucrats guessed wrong about the cost and there is not enough money to complete the original project in one of the three neighborhoods that were designated.
Extending sewer lines, and enlarging the treatment plants, is a huge expense.
Someone has to pay it.
Will it be the people who already are paying for their own sewer service or the people who will benefit by an increase in the value of their property?