By B.C. Manion
A rate increase is in store for customers of Mad Hatter Utility, who can voice their opinions at a public hearing on May 15.
The Florida Governmental Utility Authority, or FGUA, is holding the rate hearing because it plans to buy Mad Hatter, which provides water and wastewater service to about 3,500 customers in areas of Lutz and Land O’ Lakes near SR54 in Pasco County.
Mad Hatter and FGUA have been negotiating the sale off and on since 2009, said Matthew Rihs, FGUA community service representative.
FGUA’s proposed rate would be $89.29 – compared to Mad Hatter’s $51.28 — for 6,000 gallons of water with a 5/8-inch meter. Mad Hatter, however, has asked the Public Service Commission for an increase of about 100 percent, which would cost its customers $103.95 per month.
The FGUA is a government entity created by Florida law and an agreement between several counties. It focuses solely on water and wastewater utility ownership, operation and management and is governed by a board appointed by local governments that are parties to the FGUA interlocal agreement. The FGUA serves about 80,000 customers.
Mad Hatter was organized as a private utility in 1978 by Larry De Lucenay. The FGUA became interested in Mad Hatter after the Pasco County Commission identified it in 2008 as one of the private utilities it would like to see FGUA acquire, Rihs said. The goal of such acquisitions is to reduce the potential for substantial rate increases and improve the reliability of services, he said.
Rihs said FGUA and Mad Hatter have agreed on a $14 million price, including a $9 million payment at closing and $5 million note, at 4 percent interest with the balance due after 12 years. The closing is scheduled for June 7.
The rate hearing is set for May 15 at 6 p.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 20735 Leonard Road in Lutz. Afterward, the rate proposal will go to the FGUA board of directors on May 17 at 1 p.m. for final approval. That meeting will be at the Microtel Inn & Suites, 1320 Business Way, Lehigh Acres.
The majority of Mad Hatter’s customers are residential but there are pockets of commercial customers, too.
Those with questions or comments can attend the public hearing or call FGUA’s customer service office at (727) 372-0115.