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Sunday February 7th, 2016 1:03AM

Gainesville City Council deadlocks on water rate increase

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - It's back to the drawing board for Gainesville's Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall after City Council came to an impasse over an increase in water rates at a meeting Tuesday night.<br /> <br /> The increase proposed at this past Thursday's council work session would have created an additional $230,000 in annual revenue for the city. Randall said that money could be placed in reserve in anticipation of future utility projects.<br /> <br /> Councilman Sam Couvillion voiced opposition, saying that even a small increase of one-percent would hurt businesses.<br /> <br /> "I have spoken with several business owners - spoke with one today - his annual savings would be about $5,000," said Couvillion. "$5,000 to him is real money."<br /> <br /> Councilwoman Ruth Bruner was in favor of the increase, telling her fellow council members that failure to enact a small increase now would be "irresponsible."<br /> <br /> Randall told Council he recommended the increase in hopes of avoiding future borrowing, which he said could happen as early as 2017 if the Department of Transportation moves forward on certain projects, projects that would require the relocation of utility lines. A small increase now, he said, would alleviate larger increases in the future for Gainesville's 50,000 water customers.<br /> <br /> In the end, the vote was 3-3, meaning the resolution was scrapped, and Randall's staff will have to change the request.<br /> <br /> Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said staff will now have to revamp the request, which also included changes in account servicing fees and tap fees, among others.<br /> <br /> "We'll go back and bring a revised ordinance before the council that still presents those items and maybe omit the water piece." said Sheppard.<br /> <br /> There was no estimate on when council members might get a revised ordinance.<br /> <br /> Council members Ruth Bruner, Myrtle Figueras and Bob Hamrick voted in favor of the increase, while Sam Couvillion and George Wangeman voted against the ordinance. Gainesville's city charter requires at least four votes to pass or defeat a measure, so Mayor Danny Dunagan was required to vote on the ordinance. He cast a 'no' vote, leading to the tie.<br />
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