By Jill Fox
Some politicians make promises to voters, while others prefer to make things happen. After being approached by his district about a problem with their water bills, one Parkland Commissioner did just that.
Robert “Bob” Mayersohn has been serving District 4, on the eastern side of Parkland, since November 2016. During his 23 years in Parkland, Mayersohn has devoted himself to the community on the city’s education and planning and zoning advisory boards as well as the Parkland Buddy Sports Board.
After Mayersohn was approached by residents in the neighborhoods of Terramar, Parkwood, Ternbridge, Whittier Oaks, and Mayfair, where he resides, about an issue with their high utility bills, he took action.
When Parkland was developed, this part of the city wasn’t able to receive water, so Coconut Creek agreed to service the area – for an additional utility charge.
According to a state statute, when a municipal water facility serves an entity outside of its boundaries, the provider is allowed to impose a 25 percent surcharge to non-resident utility customers. The residents in eastern Parkland were forced to pay the surcharge in addition to their water bill. Although the water company is required to charge the same rate per gallon of water used, legally, they can also add surcharges to Parkland residents’ bills.
After residents had expressed concern over their high water bills, and being nonresidents of Coconut Creek, they had no say in “this taxation without representation,” he said.
Mayersohn approached Coconut Creek Mayor Welch, Commissioners Rydell, Tooley, and Belvedere, along with their city manager to explain his case. After encountering some pushback, with the conversations getting more intense, he forged ahead.
“There’s got to be some skin in the game. They’re not going to just say, ‘we’re giving it to you for free,’” said Mayersohn.
It was a matter of explaining the rationale behind it, like the amount of water used, property values, and lawn sizes. The commission looked at the numbers and where they were at, and agreed to do the “neighborly thing” not by eliminating it, but lowering the rate.
Since the Coconut Creek commission voted last February, east Parkland residents have received a reduced surcharge of 15 percent on their bills, instead of the original 25 percent.
“I can’t be thankful enough for the Coconut Creek commission’s willingness to listen,” said Mayersohn. “During the summer, if you’re watering your lawn, 10 percent off the bill is a substantial savings.”
Meanwhile, other South Florida cities continue to argue about surcharges. Mayersohn has colleagues in Sunrise and Davie and knows of elected officials in Miami Gardens and North Miami Beach who have been fighting this battle for years, even taking it to court. Mayersohn said there’s also a state senator who has been trying for years to make progress like this and had no luck.
In Parkland, a lot of water is used for irrigation, and although residents try to be conservative, they still need to keep their lawns up to HOA standards and a 10 percent savings on their water bills during dry months can help.
Mayersohn said, “That’s part of the relief that now residents have.”
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co., a leading full-service public relations firm. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.