Town threatens to cut sewer, water service to Couchiching

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has until Thursday to settle arrears for sewer and water services to Couchiching First Nation, as provided under agreement by the Town of Fort Frances, or the service will be shut off.
This order stems from last Monday night when town council passed a motion after discussing the issue during the in-camera portion of the committee of the whole meeting.
“I’m not going to get into the details of the resolution,” Mayor Dan Onichuk said in an interview this morning, but added that failure to settle the arrears by Nov. 18 would see the town “pursuing remedy under Section 6 of said agreement.”
He stressed both INAC and Couchiching have been contacted, adding, “I was given a personal commitment they [INAC] would deal with the issue prior to Nov. 18.”
Mayor Onichuk noted that, just like any other of the town’s customers, he was not at liberty to say how much Couchiching owes, nor did he say how long it would take until the water and sewer service was cut off in case the arrears were not settled.
“What I will say is we do not have a specific policy with the respect to collections as it relates to private water systems,” he noted.
“That would include Couchiching, Lakeview Trailer Court, Walleye Trailer Court. And that would apply to Alberton if we extended our service out there,” the mayor added.
As such, he put forth a recommendation that a specific policy be devised for the collection of accounts for private water systems.
The town, Couchiching, and Indian and INAC first sat down this past May to start hammering out a new agreement for water and sewer services to the reserve since it has not had one with the town since 1999.
These talks stemmed from the fact that the water and sewer service agreements between INAC and the town lapsed in the last decade—and Couchiching has been paying escalating rates ever since.
But no new agreement resulted from those talks.
Couchiching, just like all properties outside town limits that receive services from the Town of Fort Frances, currently pays double the average cost per cubic meter for water or sewage.
Between 2003 and 2004, the rates have gone up considerably. For instance, the 2003 rate for sewer service was $1.61 per cubic metre while this year it jumped to $2.08 per cubic metre.
Likewise, water rates rose from $1.35 per cubic metre in 2003 to $2.35 per cubic metre in 2004.