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What the Mad Hatter Buyout Means to You

If the sale goes through, customers of Mad Hatter and Paradise Lakes utilities will begin to see changes almost immediately, officials say.

As the Florida Governmental Utility Authority finalizes its $14 million purchase of the Mad Hatter and Paradise Lakes water systems, customers have plenty of questions on their minds.

FGUA recently sent a letter to customers of the utility system announcing the proposed purchase. The deal is expected to be finalized in June and customers in both systems can expect a raise in rates to go along with it.

What do you think about the sale and the changes that will come for customers? Let us know in the comments section.

Matthew Rihs, community service representative for FGUA, recently spoke with Patch about the potential buyout.

Patch: Where does the Cypress Cove system fit into the purchase?

Rihs: The Cypress Cove Community is referenced as part of the Foxwood rate structure in the April 13 letter to Mad Hatter Customers.  Customers in Cypress Cove, who currently pay $51.28 for 6,000 gallons of service, would instead pay $89.29. This is approximately $15 less than what customers would pay if Mad Hatter maintained ownership of the system, as submitted by Mad Hatter to the Florida Public Service Commission ($103.95). (See for a breakdown of what customers in other subdivisions will pay.)

Patch: Why did FGUA want to purchase Mad Hatter/Paradise Lakes?

Rihs: At the request of the Pasco County Commissioners, county staff and customers, the FGUA is acquiring Mad Hatter Utilities, Inc. to assist Pasco County in easing the burden of a substantial rate increase and to help support future system growth and reliability in the County by providing system improvements and interconnections with Pasco County Utilities’ system. The acquisition has been in the negotiation phase since 2009. An agreement was reached with the owner of Mad Hatter Utilities, Inc. and Paradise Lakes Utility to purchase the assets of both systems for $14 million.

Patch: What changes will your utility make to the existing systems?

Rihs: The FGUA will be investing approximately $3.4 million in capital Improvements to the system.  Improvements include: Installing interconnections with Pasco County Utilities to ensure future service reliability, converting the disinfectant process from free chlorine to chloramines, installing SCADA (remote, electronic monitoring systems) at well sites, and rehabilitating lift stations. The FGUA will provide regular updates of capital improvement activities to customers in quarterly newsletters, and provide regular updates on the FGUA website.

Patch: What's the difference between chlorine and chloramines?

Rihs: The difference between chlorine and chloramines is that chlorine (otherwise known as free chlorine) uses only chlorine to disinfect the water. Chloramines have a lower concentration of chlorine and also has a small amount of ammonia to disinfect the water. Chloramines are more frequently used by most utilities because the disinfectant lasts longer in the treated water.

Patch: Will customers be able to pay online? (A service that's lacking now.)

Rihs: Customers will be able to make payments online.  Customers may also set up EZ Pay (automatic checking), receive E-Billing notifications, pay over the phone with a credit card, pay in person at the FGUA Pasco Customer Service Office, mail their payment, or make payments at their local Amscot location.

Patch: What is FGUA exactly?

The FGUA is a single-purpose local government created through Florida Statutes in 1999, focused on utility ownership, operation and management. The purpose of the FGUA is primarily to acquire, maintain, and operate water and wastewater utilities in Florida. The FGUA operates in the Sunshine as a local government, and has a record of public accountability. The FGUA does this by providing necessary improvements, regulatory compliance, and a high level of customer service.

How to Find Out More

A public meeting on the proposed buyout is set for May 15 at 6 p.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 20735 Leonard Road in Lutz.

For more information about the proposal, call Rihs at 727-372-0115.

Stay with Patch for more details on the proposed sale as they become available.

Joy Todd Coykendall April 26, 2012 at 01:53 PM
How much is it going to cost to pay the bill online?
don stephenson April 26, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I, for one, find the taste and smell of the water we get in Land O lakes (my area, Twin Lakes) to be repugnant at best. It's like drinking directly from a chlorinated swimming pool. I hope the new company will get us a better product for our money!
Sherri Lonon April 26, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Joy, as far as I know, the online payment will be a free service such as the one Progress Energy offers. I can double check with Mr. Rihs though to be sure!
Joy Todd Coykendall April 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Sherri, I know the one for Progress Energy makes you pay close to $5 extra. At least, that is what happens to me when I try to pay online!
Sherri Lonon April 26, 2012 at 05:09 PM
That's strange. My electronic bill payment with Progress Energy matches up to the pricing on the paper bill. Same on my cable. I'll have to keep my eyes open to see if there is a difference next month. Progress Energy does have a $5 charge if you pay online after the due date though.
Sherri Lonon April 26, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Hi Joy, I just heard back from Mr. Rihs and he says there are no surcharges for online payments. What's on the bill is what the online system charges. Hope that helps answer your question!
Matthew Rihs April 27, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Mr. Stephenson: Thanks for commenting on your water odor and taste concerns. As part of the FGUA's Capital Improvement Program efforts following the acquisition, the FGUA would switch the water treatment method from chlorine to chloramines. The chloramines have a lower concentration of chlorine, so customers should notice a decrease in the taste and smell of the water.

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