HAWTHORNE – The Hawthorne City Commission worked to amend the city’s water and sewer regulations on Tuesday in an attempt to add money to the city’s depleted enterprise fund.

The Florida Rural Water Association, a professional association that aids small cities with their water rates, conducted a free rate study for the City of Hawthorne.  The study took over six months to complete and recommended water and sewer rates with a 15 percent profit margin to account for unforeseen circumstances and emergencies.

It was recommended that residential customers pay a base rate of $17 for water, and if they use under 3,000 gallons, they will pay $2 per 1,000 gallons used. If residents use 3,001 to 6,000 gallons, they will pay $2.50 per 1,000 gallons used. For each extra 3,000 gallons used, the water rate increases 25 cents per 1,000 gallons used.

Commercial water rates start with a base rate of $25.50, and customers who use under 3,000 gallons pay $2 per 1,000 gallons used. The same method is used where each extra 3,000 gallons result in an increase of 25 cents per 1,000 gallons used.

The water rate for irrigation is $2.75 per 1,000 gallons used.

The wastewater base rate is $38, which includes 3,000 gallons. After this amount is used the citizen would pay $5.92 per 1,000 gallons, which is based on the water usage.

There is a residential deposit fee of $200 that each residential customer must pay. The commercial deposit is $250. With the new system, there are no more surcharges.

When compared to other cities in the surrounding area, these water rates were lower than Waldo and Archer. The City of Alachua was the only city to have lower rates than Hawthorne’s projected ones.

However, Hawthorne had higher sewer rates than both the cities of Waldo and Alachua, where their base rates were $19.37 and $9.35 respectively. This compares to Hawthorne’s base rate of $38.

City Manager Ellen Vause said although it looks like a heavy increase from past water expenses, this increase is comparable with other rates in the county.

“The rates they recommended are well within the range that other cities are using around here,” she said.

Almost half of the citizens in Hawthorne use below 3,000 gallons, Vause said. The city hopes that this new rate change will be more accommodating than the one currently in use, where a citizen pays for 4,000 gallons of water, regardless if they actually use less.

Mayor Matthew Surrency said this system will help the old lady that lives alone pay less than the family of four that uses more water.

“Currently, if you are using 999 gallons, you are paying for 4,000,” he said.

The new rates provided by the Florida Rural Water Association will produce enough revenue to cover expenses and also put money into the city’s depleted reserve accounts, Vause said. Hawthorne is still in a state of financial emergency and has an unrestricted deficit of $1.2 million.

“Even with these rates, we still have yet to address our deficit,” she said.

There is no money set aside in case of an emergency, Vause added.

Dumpster fees were originally included with these rates, but commissioners amended this and opted to create a separate ordinance that will be discussed at a future meeting.

The motion to adopt the ordinance on first reading was passed with a 4-1 vote. Commissioner William Carlton provided the sole dissenting vote.

“Somewhere, I think the people need some relief if we can get it,” he said.