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After Ian, North Port residents face exorbitant utility fees. City leaders want to change that

North Port officials say residents who want to temporarily discontinue services could face a $27,000 reconnection fee.

In North Port, some mobile home residents who are rebuilding after Hurricane Ian are faced with a choice: pay $55 for continued water and sewage service or pay a $77 disconnection fee and incur a $27,000 bill for future reconnection.

Utilities director Nancy Gallinaro said this is an oversight of the city's current service utility code. But city leaders have plans to rectify it.

"We have to help people through a catastrophic event like this," Gallinaro said. "I suspect, in many cases, [this] was not factored into new codes."

The current city regulations governing water and wastewater rates, last updated in October 2022, require a $55.95 monthly base-rate fee. To connect a new account to the city's central services, other one-time fees include a: capacity fee ($4,000), meter installation charge ($1,000), water extension charge ($7,500) and sewer extension charge ($15,000).

While that's standard cost to extend water and wastewater capacity to new construction, assistant utilities director Jennifer Desrosiers said that same fee schedule shouldn't apply to preexisting North Port customers who have lost their homes during a major storm.

"Part of our code says that when you want to reconnect — you will pay capacity fees, meter fees and it would be considered a new account," Desrosiers said.

During a city commission meeting on Nov. 8, leadership asked staff to research an exemption that would allow Ian survivors to waive exorbitant line extension fees for water and sewage services.