SEBASTIAN – Barefoot Bay residents are paying some of the highest prices for water & sewage in the state to maintain their water treatment plant.
Every household in Barefoot Bay pays $43.38 as a “base facility charge” for both water and sewer, plus they pay for their usage. That’s an annual cost of $520.56 that each water & sewage account holder has to pay, generating millions of dollars.
“I have questioned my bill many times, for one person mine is always $74 average, way too high for just me,” said Barefoot Bay resident Marcia Richgels.
Some residents have lowered their bill by hardly using any water, such as flushing their toilets on the third time only, or not using a dishwasher.
Residents who have lived in Barefoot Bay for 20 or more years told us the base charges first allegedly appeared on their bill in 2004. They were allegedly told the charges were temporary and were needed to repair damage to the water treatment plant caused by the hurricanes.
However, the base charges continued over the years, and the district found other reasons to continue the billing.
“The base charge was initiated to fund a new renovation of the water treatment plant for Brevard County at the Barefoot Bay location,” resident Herb Steelman said. “The new plant was supposed to be renovated last year, but it was determined that the condition is so bad it would have to be replaced, which I was told the Commissioners denied. Don’t know why we continue to pay the base fee if nothing is going to happen.”
We spoke with the Barefoot Bay Water and Sewer District, and they said the fees are necessary to maintain the facility.
“We have a base facility charge of $43.38 for each resident because Barefoot Bay isn’t part of the Brevard County budget,” according to a representative for the Barefoot Bay Water and Sewer District. “The charges are used for chemicals, trucks, meters, and other miscellaneous items.”
The plant is maintained by Brevard County, even though Barefoot Bay isn’t part of its budget.
But few residents are fine with their water & sewage bill and welcome the monthly charge.
“We in Barefoot Bay pay to support our independent, self-sustaining water processing and sewer/storm drain system that was installed as part of the planning of the community,” Debra Howe wrote on Facebook. “Fully one-half or more of your bill pays for this maintenance. Persons living outside of Barefoot Bay do not have access to our system, hence self-sufficient, and most areas surrounding Barefoot Bay do not have sewer and/or storm drain systems.”
Residents do pay HOA and recreational fees, but those monies go to maintain the buildings for the community and grounds. The property taxes help maintain the roads, law enforcement, and emergency services.
But most residents see the charges as only a money grab because no one is held accountable, and that the water & sewage district can make the rules without public involvement.
Here’s the breakdown of a typical bill from the Barefoot Bay Water & Sewage District:
- Water base facility charge: $13.73
- Water usage: $7.44
- Sewer base facility charge: $29.65
- Sewer usage: $15.07
Total bill is $65.89, and that includes the $43.38 combined total for the base facility charges. The actual usage is only $22.51, much lower than the base fees.
There’s also a $30 “delinquent charge” if a resident is late paying. If that occurs, a new deposit is required for the account, which seems excessive.
One resident told us that her water & sewage services were turned off for non-payment and the district allegedly continued to bill her the monthly base charges, even though her services were disconnected during that time.
There are expensive country clubs that have cheaper bills for water & sewage. Most residents who live in Barefoot Bay are on fixed incomes.
Brevard County officials should work with Barefoot Bay to find a solution, especially if the water treatment plant is growing old and needs renovation.