Action News Jax Investigates: JEA proposed fee increase of nearly 275%

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is investigating a proposed fee increase that could make you pay thousands of dollars more if you’re building a new home.

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Jacksonville Electric Authority is proposing an increase in tap water and meter fees for newly constructed homes.

For three-quarter-inch diameter pipes, JEA wants to increase installation costs for this from $2,665.33 to $9,990. That’s a nearly 275% increase.

These pipes run through your walls and underground to provide you with the water you need.

Michael Taradash has them in his own home in eTown, and he knows a lot about them.

“I work all over the world doing pipeline design and engineering and everything and I’ve seen the cost rise,” he said.

When I told him about the proposal, he reacted with a “Wow.” He paused, then added, “That’s what I have to say. Wow.”

“I don’t feel that this is a justified proposal,” Taradash explained.

“If it’s new lines in streets that are corroding then I would tend to agree with them,” he pointed out.

JEA says it’s raising fees for the first time in 15 years, citing infrastructure needs are part of the reason for this.

It said in a statement:

“The utility is approaching maximum capacity for a few of its plants and other infrastructure needs, and by proposing this increase, jea is being proactive in planning for the future.”

But Taradash thinks it’ll be an extra burden for builders and, even though JEA says it will strictly impact developers, he worries this will get passed down to homebuyers.

“If I’m the builder, I gotta, I gotta figure out what it’s gonna cost me,” he said.

He also worries if it doesn’t pass, “it would probably end up being trickled down” in the form of a monthly rate increase.

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But JEA is assuring customers this won’t affect monthly bills, saying in an email:

“Capacity fee adjustments are not rate changes, and they will not directly affect customers’ monthly bills.”

Here is the full statement from JEA:

The board will hold a public rate hearing on August 24 to vote on JEA’s proposed capacity fee adjustments. If approved, these fee adjustments could go into effect as early as Oct. 1, 2021. Capacity fee adjustments are not rate changes, and they will not directly affect customers’ monthly bills.

As publicly discussed in detail over the past few months, JEA is proposing an increase in water and sewer capacity fees for the first time in 15 years. The utility is approaching maximum capacity for a few of its plants and other infrastructure needs, and by proposing this increase, JEA is being proactive in planning for the future. Going forward, current leadership will aim to assess fees more regularly to keep up with inflation and increasing costs versus waiting a number of years before doing so. Implementing these changes now ensures JEA is in alignment with FY22 budget preparations and the five-year Capital Improvement Plan submitted to the City of Jacksonville. - JEA

This proposal will be discussed during a board meeting next Tuesday at 9 a.m.

If you want to chime in, you can attend the meeting in person at the JEA office (19th Floor, 21 W. Church St., Jacksonville FL 32202). Attendees will be required to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can also attend the meeting virtually via WebEx.

Here are instructions on how you can do that: