If you’re not angry — you’re not paying attention

In addition to being Election Day, Tuesday is the day of the next regular meeting of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and Historic City News will be watching … closely.

Items 6 and 7, to be presented to the Commissioners by County Utility Director William G. Young, lay the groundwork for utility rate increases in each of the next three years for both the main utility customers and Ponte Vedra Beach.

According to the agenda, “Due to increasing regulatory and operational costs and constrained revenues, the St. Johns County Utility Department recently conducted a thorough rate analysis.”

Why then is County Commissioner Ken Bryan promoting the idea that the St. Johns County Utility Department can afford to buy the West Augustine utility enterprise from the City of St. Augustine — especially by using the argument that “lower utility bills” are in the offing for City customers if they agree to sell?

My favorite pet peeve — private consultants hired to tell us what we already (should) know.

The private consultant, Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc., wrote a letter to Young saying “Mr. Young and the Utility’s fine staff members … provided data and assisted in the study process.” In the actual report, the private consultant acknowledged “The projected expenses, costs and requirements contained herein and used as the basis for the proposed rate adjustments can be attributed to the assistance, work and guidance provided by the County’s fine staff members.”

Has anyone looked at the salaries paid to the utility director, his administrative staff and state certified treatment plant operators?

Bill Young alone earns $111,498.14 each year — almost three times the average salary in St. Johns County. Well, at least he says in his request to the Board, “St. Johns County Utility Department eliminated annual salary increases.” Jesus, do you think he can get by on just $111,498.14?

I’ve got to ask, are he and his high-priced staff not qualified and capable of producing their own projections, costs and requirements for the Board to review?

If anyone drives westward from town on SR-16, be certain to get a look at the fabulous, new glass mansion that the county erected to honor the utility department at Four Mile Road. But, Young says, “Capital outlay and equipment was reduced to only critical items.” Looks like they’re trying to cut costs doesn’t it?

“The rate study examined the sustainability of the enterprise fund, revenue requirements, and maintenance of positive credit ratings to fund critical infrastructure needs,” according to staff. “The study supports adjustments to the water and sewer rates over the next three years.”

Former St. Johns County Commissioner Karen Stern asked, “Is this really something the County Commissioners should be considering during our current economic climate?”

Noted author Brian A. Iannucci declares, “We need to evaluate the poor decisions that are being made on behalf of our county.”

Stern suggests, “Seems to me we should be looking at how we can “build jobs”…too many of us have lost jobs.”

And according to Iannucci, “It’s time to stand up to these so-called Republicans.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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