Umatilla leaders consider water rate hike to fund pipe replacement



UMATILLA, Fla. - People who live in Umatilla could end up paying 70 percent more than they do now for water.

After a massive water main break in 2013, city officials discovered they needed to make repairs and upgrades to underground water pipes.

Most Umatilla residents remember the day when the water main break hit in October.

"Couldn't use the restroom, couldn't use the water, nothing. Everything went out," resident Kimberly Knox said.

The break led to a boil water alert that lasted more than a day. It also led to the discovery of underground pipes that are more than 50 years old and in poor condition.

City leaders said replacing the pipes could cost anywhere from $12 million to $18 million. It's a price that can only be covered with a water rate increase. One plan that's being considered could mean a 70 percent hike over the next four years.

"It is kind of steep. The council has a tough decision to make. All we can do is deliver the bad news," City Manager Glenn Irby said.

Irby said there may be some state grant money available to help, but most of the funds would have to come from customers.

"I understand everybody has to chip in somewhat in the city to have things done. But I think that is a lot," resident Michael Quashie said.

A public hearing on the rate hike will likely be scheduled for early June.