Polk’s discount on tap fees stirs frustration for some

Published 6:01 pm Thursday, July 18, 2013

While some Polk County residents may be estatic that the county is offering $700 tap fees to connect to any county waterline, others who recently paid a $1,200 tap fee say they feel the county owes them a rebate.

Commissioners met July 8 and heard from two Meadowbrook subdivision residents who expressed concern over the discount.

Jonathan Bole, president of Meadowbrook Farm Homeowners Association, just outside Columbus, said the subdivision raised the money, paid the participation fee and were told the $1,200 tap fee would be the all time low. He said the expiration date of the $1,200 tap fee was May 1.

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“Shortly thereafter the county dropped the fee to $700,” Bole said, “which makes us look silly almost before the ink is dry.”

He said the feeling going around the neighborhood is “mad as hell.”

“We feel used, we feel abused and we feel this commission should offer us some sort of rebate,” Bole said.

Paul Brondell also spoke at the meeting and said he felt pressure to tap onto the system at the time because if he paid $1,200 then it would save him money later because the tap fee would go back to $1,500 after construction. He said he had to scrape money together in order to take advantage of what they were offered.

“Now I’m irritated that the county commission has lowered that fee to $700,” Brondell said. “It’s not right.”

He said if he had known that at the time, he would have gladly waited and paid $700 instead. Brondell then asked commissioners for a rebate.

Commissioners approved a $1,353,491.59 bid on June 17 to extend its waterline from Peniel Road in Green Creek to the Hwy. 9 crossroads in Mill Spring. Along with that decision commissioners decided to offer a discount on tap fees (for a ¾ inch tap) for anyone in the county that could tap onto the county’s water system. The $700 tap fee includes no participation fees and is valid from July 1 through the end of the year. The regular tap fee during construction of a waterline is $1,200 and $1,500 all other times.

The Meadowbrook waterline extension was done when the county connected its waterline to the Town of Columbus along Hwy. 108. There were 10 residences within Meadowbrook who paid a tap fee, with Bole purchasing two taps for a total of $2,400.

The county paid $35,245 out  of its fund balance and another $6,546 out of its water fund capital reserves to connect Meadowbrook to the water system. Meadowbrook also paid $27,860 for its participation in the line as part of the county’s waterline policy for water line extensions. Customers pay 40 percent of the extension and the county pays 60 percent,  if the waterline is not a main trunk line. Potential customers whose property is along a main trunk line do not have to pay a participation fee, only a tap fee.

Polk County Commissioner Chair Michael Gage said he feels for residents of Meadowbrook but the county cannot give a refund. He said this discount was given in an effort to grow the county’s water system. He said he was not aware of Meadowbrook’s May 1 deadline when commissioners voted to give the discount.

“I do feel for those people,” Gage said. “I’d be upset too, but you have to have a start and stop date for everything. We can’t go back and refund money because we would have to refund everybody.”