By Dan Moffett
The South Palm Beach Town Council unanimously approved refunding to customers some $455,000 in improper sewer charges assessed since 2016. The town expects all customers to be compensated before November.
The remittances are the result of an audit by the Palm Beach County inspector general that found the town did not adequately give public notice to rate increases during that period. The inspector found “no indication of willful misconduct” in the action.
Town Manager Robert Kellogg, in his response to the county watchdog, wants the inspector to extend his audits to monitor the “franchise agreement holders to determine if the proper amount of fees are being remitted.”
A franchise agreement is a negotiated contract between a municipality and a utility service provider that grants the utility the right to serve customers in the city’s jurisdiction. South Palm Beach has franchise agreements with Florida Power & Light, Florida Public Utilities and Waste Management Inc.
Towns such as South Palm Beach collect tens of thousands of dollars a year from these utility fees. The concern is that adequate oversight is lacking.
“We don’t have the capability to audit those fees,” Kellogg said. “But the inspector general does. It would be a great service to municipalities to look into this.”