Bay Cnty., Fla. v. United States, No. 14-5149 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Bay County Utilities provides water and sewer services. The County Commissioners establish rates. In 1966, the U.S. Air Force contracted with the County for water services at Tyndall Air Force Base. The parties entered into a sewer services contract in 1985. Both required the parties to renegotiate any new rates. In 1994, Federal Acquisition Regulations were amended to require standardized clauses in utility service contracts. When the government is contracting with an unregulated utility or the utility is subject to non-independent oversight, the parties must negotiate new rates. If the utility is overseen by an independent regulatory body, no further negotiations are required. In 2007 and 2009, Bay County increased water rates. The Air Force ignored those increases, but, in 2009 and 2010, unilaterally modified the water contract, with new rates, lower than the rates set by Bay County. In 2009 Bay County increased sewer rates. The Air Force refused to pay those higher rates, and instituted a unilateral contract modification to moderately increase sewer rates. Bay County submitted unsuccessful Contract Disputes Act claims to recover the unpaid balance of approximately $850,000. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Court of Federal Claims, holding that Bay County is an independent regulatory body and may revise rates in utility contracts without resorting to negotiations with the Air Force.