The Town of Century faces numerous problems with its sewer system, which is unfixable without a massive amount of funding.
Alicia Jernigan, Century’s Water Superintendent, says the town’s wastewater system “is failing,” thanks in part to equipment that’s not been maintained properly over the years.
“The system is 25-30 years old,” said Jernigan. “Just like if you were to drive your car for 25 or 30 years, at some point the cost to repair and maintain it becomes more than the cost of replacing it.”
It’s bad enough that the system’s way behind when it comes to regular maintenance, she says, but it’s also long in the tooth.
“Our main issue is our lift stations; they’re vacuum-style pumps which are pretty much obsolete,” says Jernigan. “That makes the parts very hard to come by; some of them you can’t even get parts for anymore.”
The price tag for system-wide repairs and upgrades, says Jernigan, would run into the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, which for now appears out of reach for Century. For now, the town is studying a number of options -- both in-house and in Tallahassee.
“We are looking at getting a legislative appropriation, but as you know that takes sometimes several years to go through,” Jernigan said. “At this point we’re looking into actually getting a loan to focus on the most of the year’s issues first.”
Century could be eligible for low interest loans or outright grants from the state, but Jernigan says even if that’s the case, a rate increase is inevitable. At $13 per 6,000 gallons, Century has one of the lowest water rates in Florida, with no rate increase since August, 2012.
The Florida Rural Water Association is conducting a rate study to determine just how much that rate should go up.
If approved, the rate hike would not go towards replacing the antiquated equipment directly, says Jernigan, but rather to be able to sustain the equipment when it’s replaced. As far as help from the public, she says there’s not that much they can do, except….
“….not be too upset when their bill goes up a dollar or two,” said Jernigan. “And that’s really all we’re talking about.”
A special meeting to discuss Century’s water, wastewater and natural gas rates is set for Monday evening, March 20 at six o’clock.