Indian River Shores to seek legal action if Vero Beach fails to lower reclaimed water rates

Article Courtesy of  The TCPalm

By Janet Begley

Published March 31, 2019


INDIAN RIVER SHORES — The town is putting the city of Vero Beach on notice: Lower the rate on the reclaimed water it sells to the Shores within 15 days or the town will seek legal remedies.

Council members said Thursday they wanted Vero Beach to honor the franchise agreement it signed with the Shores in 2012. Under the contract, rates for Shores’ customers serviced by the city can be no greater than the rates charged by Indian River County for its reclaimed water.

“I want to push back against them and make them adhere to the contract,” Vice Mayor Bob Auwaerter said. “That’s what they signed up for.”

Reclaimed water, like electricity used to be, is supplied to Indian River Shores by Vero Beach. Produced at the city Water Reclamation Facility, it's disinfected wastewater, typically used for golf courses and landscape irrigation.

Many homeowners associations also use reclaimed water for residential irrigation.

On Dec. 18, county commissioners adopted new fees for water, sewer and reclaimed water, dropping the cost of reclaimed water to 21 cents per 1,000 gallons effective March 1. Vero Beach charges 67 cents per 1,000 gallons, or 69 percent more than the county.


If the city fails to lower its rates within 15 days, town officials said they will issue a notice of default. Should issues continue, the town will file for mediation, which is required in Florida if one municipality has a legal problem with another. If mediation fails, the final step would be a lawsuit.

If Vero Beach fails to lower its rates for reclaimed water within 15 days, Indian River Shores officials said they will issue a notice of default.

Vero Beach officials claim its reuse water should cost more because it is pressurized, even though there is no mention of pressurized water in the franchise agreement. But residents told the council that water currently being delivered to the Shores isn’t pressurized, and they’ve tested it to make sure.

The reclaimed water, which is used for irrigation at former council member Mike Ochsner's homeowners association, comes in at five to 10 PSI, far less than the 50 PSI the city claims it is delivering.

“They’ve been in violation of our agreement since day one,” Ochsner said. “Don’t let them get away with it.”

The amount of reclaimed water the city delivers daily to the Shores also is far less than the 2.6 million gallons it promised, according to former councilman Jerry Weick.

“A contract is a contract,” Weick said. “We negotiated in good faith and they need to live up to it.”

Barring an amicable settlement, Councilman Brian Foley said town attorney Chester Clem will issue a notice of default to the city, which triggers a 90-day period for Vero Beach to correct the situation before mediation would start.

If the issue fails to be resolved, Shores Mayor Tom Slater said he thinks the county would be interested in providing the necessary reclaimed water.

“The county is ready, willing and able to serve us,” he said.

Vero Beach is considering changing its water-and-sewer rate structure for customers outside the city limits. The proposed rates, fees and charges for water and sewer service could increase for certain customers outside the city limits.

A meeting to consider the changes is 5 p.m. April 2 at Vero Beach City Hall.