Escambia Legislative Delegation Wants Answers From ECUA After State Findings

September 30, 2021

The local legislative delegation has asked the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority to respond to state findings after a review of the utility’s operations.

Created by the Florida Legislature in 1981, ECUA operates as a special district outside the jurisdiction of the Florida Public Service Commission that regulates most utilities in the state. The Florida Office of Public Counsel, which advocates on behalf of Florida’s utility consumers, conducted a review of ECUA operations.

The Public Counsel report identified three areas related to ECUA’s accounting of expenditures, its replacement rate of equipment and its methods for setting rates for residential and commercial customers. In a letter to the ECUA board, Sen. Doug Broxson, Rep. Alex Andrade and Rep. Michelle Salzman requested a response to the report by November 30.

“No utility is perfect, and a utility like ECUA, which has experienced serious upheaval in its executive offices in recent years, certainly isn’t expected to be perfect. That being said, the findings from the Public Counsel were serious enough to merit a response from ECUA. I’m confident ECUA will address the findings with a focus on providing the best, most reliable value and service to customers in my district that they can,” said Andrade, whose office sent the letter.

The Office of Public Counsel compared ECUA rates to those of Peoples Water Service Company in southwest Escambia County and found disparity.

“This office compared the water rates for a typical (3,000 gallon per month) ECUA residential customer (ignoring taxes and other fees) with the same consumption for a Peoples Water Service Company (“Peoples”), a Class A utility serving over 13,000 customers in areas of southwest Escambia County,” the report stated. “We observed that, at this level of consumption, the ECUA (mainland) customer bills are 56% higher than those of the FPSC-regulated Peoples.

“It must be pointed out, however, that due to the conservation rate structure the FPSC imposed on Peoples (which requires increasingly more expensive gallonage charges as household usage increases), at 10,000 gallons monthly usage, the ECUA bill is 15% lower than the comparable Peoples’ bill. The point here is that it is not clear that the full FPSC regulation would necessarily result in lower rates for ECUA customers.”

In their letter to ECUA, the legislative delegation “requests the ECUA review the possibility of implementing a conservation rate structure, or a response from the ECUA explaining why a conservation rate structure would be unfeasible or inadvisable for the ECUA.”

The review identified that the ECUA cycles out its water meters at a higher rate than similarly situated utilities, well before the water meters have reached their anticipated serviceable life span. The review notes that the reason given is that the ECUA desires all of its meters to operate under warranty. While the ECUA is not subject to review by the PSC, he Public Counsel stated that similar activity would not be deemed “reasonable or prudent” in a PSC rate setting process. The recurring annual cost for meter replacement is shown to be $2 million.

The review also raised the question of whether the ECUA is following generally accepted accounting principles in addition to its own reporting standards when coding expenses in its financial reports.

“I am concerned about some of the findings, but look forward to seeing ECUA’s response addressing these concerns,” Salzman said.

“As most of us know, ECUA has faced some challenges and concerns from the public in previous years. We continue to seek third party input and work with ECUA on how they can better function as a public trust,” Broxson said.


12 Responses to “Escambia Legislative Delegation Wants Answers From ECUA After State Findings”

  1. Carola on October 2nd, 2021 10:01 pm

    I first contacted ECUA when I was 40 years old. I’m now in my 60’s and still waiting for
    them to call me back.

  2. concerned on October 2nd, 2021 4:00 pm

    ( n o t I c e ) take the lid off your tank at your toilet all the trash comming threw the lines I’ve replaced toilets and now the flappers keep leaking with trash comming threw the lines flapper after flapper the sand just eats away at the flapper s and you have to replace them. another thing the outside leaves and sticks being placed in cans for pickup ? the guys dump half of it on the street ? can be dangerous for those who ride bicycles and or motorcycles can make your wheels slip out from under you . I’m sure we can do better than this.

  3. Denizen on October 1st, 2021 8:56 am

    “Created by the Florida Legislature in 1981, ECUA operates as a special district outside the jurisdiction of the Florida Public Service Commission that regulates most utilities in the state. The Florida Office of Public Counsel, which advocates on behalf of Florida’s utility consumers, conducted a review of ECUA operations.”

    You reap what you sow! Why didn’t the State feel the need to regulate a Public Utility?

  4. Henry Coe on October 1st, 2021 6:52 am

    By the article it sounded like the poorer you are the higher a rate you pay to help offset the cost for the more wealthy customer discount?

    That’s pretty much a Florida design. i.e. Home Owners insurance. We jack up the cost of Home Owners Insurance for people who live inland in order to offset the cost for people who live on the coast in areas that shouldn’t be insurable. (As opposed to insuring each property based on that property’s actual risk by location)

    This financial model is also reflected in our tax system where the very wealthy pay a smaller amount by percentage than the less fortunate.

    My Dad use to call it the Golden Rule. Those who have the gold make the rules.

  5. Gloria Horning, Ph.D on September 30th, 2021 5:17 pm

    Will this report be sealed TOO?!

  6. Service on September 30th, 2021 3:14 pm

    I have had years of difficulty dealing with ECUA inconsistent and poor service. The bill is always paid on time but poor service is not addressed. I ask for a supervisor to discuss the problem but they don’t call me back. Good luck getting anything done, they are very independent.

  7. Kathy Ganey on September 30th, 2021 11:59 am

    I set up to receive ecua bills by email. The bills were hit and miss which
    amounted to me paying late charges. Switched to mailed bills and now I’m lucky if they show up on time, IF AT ALL, REQUIRING ME TO PAY MORE LATE CHARGES!!


  8. Dewayne on September 30th, 2021 10:02 am

    ECUA needs to be under the Florida Public Service Commission that regulates most utilities in the state.
    There is no reason not to!
    Except they can as they do, get away with a lot of questionable issues that even the state acknowledges.
    We have enough crooked mess in this county going on and by putting the ECUA under the PSC at least the behind closed doors will have a key provided to those closed doors.
    Thats why the ECUA is operating under a “special district”
    And the ECUA is “very special”
    Boot them out and put them under the PSC.

  9. Bob on September 30th, 2021 8:57 am

    The rates charged by ECUA continue to rise…
    The quality of service provided continue to fall…

    If ECUA was in private industry they would be bankrupt. No one would willingly pay their rates for the level of service provided…

  10. Bill on September 30th, 2021 8:57 am

    Long overdue from the top down this is a terribly managed operation Thanks for looking into ECUA

  11. Citizen on September 30th, 2021 8:15 am

    ECUA and the way they did the people in conjunction with D2 commissioner and the BOCC at Innerarity Island is one of the big reasons I am happy to still have the Town of Century provide water and sewage and garbage pick up.

    Good for the delegation holding ECUA’s feet to the fire.

  12. J.Larry Seale on September 30th, 2021 7:30 am

    wish them luck…………..
    I can’t get them to return my phone call……