Council approves sewer, water rate hikes

With Mayor Dan Onichuk’s signature now on the bylaw, property owners in both the residential and commercial sectors will see a 10 percent increase to their sewer and water rates, retroactive to July 1.
The increase, which stems from the rising cost of providing the service, was made official Monday night after no one stepped up to the podium to speak either for or against the proposal at a public hearing held in conjunction with council’s regular meeting at the Civic Centre.
The rate hikes were approved unanimously by council and will be included on the next set of sewer and water bills, which will be mailed out in September.
Under the new fee schedule, homeowners will see their flat residential water rate rise from $28.92 per month to $31.81 per month—an increase of $2.89 per month.
Residential sewer rates will jump $2.55 per month, from $25.52 to $28.07.
Meanwhile, the flat commercial water rate will increase from $38.12 to $41.93—a difference of $3.81 per month.
Businesses also will see a $3.36 hike on their monthly sewage bills, with the flat commercial rate rising from $33.64 per month to $37 per month.
The metered commercial rates and fees applied to private hydrants and sprinkler systems have been increased by 10 percent, too.
Council first proposed the 10 percent increase at its June 13 meeting, opting to put off implementing a 10-year fee schedule outlined by consultant Gary Scandlan (of CN Watson & Associates) in response to a pair of provincial bills that place new regulations on sewer and water service.
That legislation, expected to become law within the next two years, will require municipalities to budget for the full life-cycle recovery of its below-ground piping and other related infrastructure.
Scandlan suggested the town start building up its coffers now in anticipation of the legislation, but his recommendations would have meant a 188 percent increase to commercial ratepayers—a fact that drew the ire of the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.
After a public hearing on the matter, Scandlan’s plan was defeated and the new proposal was brought forth.
The fee schedule approved Monday night does not address the life-cycle costs, but Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig noted council and administration has not forgotten about the issue.
“That hasn’t died,” McCaig stressed. “We’re going to continue investigating options because we’re going to have to address this issue sooner or later.
“We’re being pro-active,” he added. “We understand that this change is coming and we have to be prepared for it.
“We have to find a solution to address [the life-cycle fees] that will be palatable to everybody.”
Now that the sewer and water rates for 2005-06 have been approved, crews can continue with a number of routine maintenance projects on tap for completion this year, McCaig added.
“We had to address this issue of getting some money in to do the projects that we’ve committed to doing,” he remarked.