MIAMI (CBS4) - It's the one thing commissioners have been avoiding for over a decade; Miami-Dade's crumbling sewage system. Thursday, under the pressure of a federal lawsuit commissioners began to take action, perhaps a minute or years really too late.
"Without an upgraded fully functioning system the growth and success that our community has experienced will grind to a halt," Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners.
CBS4 has been reporting on a looming disaster for years. Sewage and water lines across the county are breaking almost on a daily basis. The fifty plus year-old system, some 14,000 miles long, needs replacing, but the county has been simply plugging the problem.
"The economy was so terrible. People were losing jobs in Miami-Dade County. The thinking about increasing even three dollars was at the time irresponsible," said commission Chairwoman Rebecca Sosa. "But now that the county is moving in the right direction we have to face a reality."
Miami-Dade Water and Sewer is now proposing a $4.2 billion dollar plan to roll out over the next six years. It would be paid for by a 30 percent rate increase spread out over the next five years.
Each year the rate would increase by five to six percent. For the average homeowner their bill would go up $170 dollars, a year, by 2018.
"We pay incredibly low rates compared to anybody else in the country," Commissioner Juan Zapata said.
He believes Miami-Dade will continue to be the lowest, even after the hikes.
After the meeting Gimenez said they will get this done. But will the commission have the political willpower to raise rates when others have passed the buck?
Gimenez responded, "We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to lead a legacy and leave a system. They are going to have to make their own investment. We have been banking on our fathers and grandfathers and our great grandfathers investments because some of this stuff is 80 years old."
The plan and rate hikes wouldn't take place anytime soon. A series of votes and public hearings still have to happen. That said the county is hoping to have a rate hike in place by October 1st of this year.
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