Council to mull revised sewer, water rates

Town council will have a revised fee schedule for sewer and water rates before it next Monday night (July 11) after several recommendations for changes were made during a special committee of the whole meeting Tuesday.
At that meeting, council and management discussed the input they’ve received from the local business community regarding the proposed fee increases, how to achieve parity between commercial and residential rates, and whether the increases to commercial users could be spread over 10 instead of five years.
Still another question was why should commercial users have a portion of their increased rates go towards buying water meters for the whole community in the future, when many already have had to buy their own?
After lengthy discussion with the rest of council, Mayor Dan Onichuk compiled all the suggestions talked about and recommended:
•the removal of the surcharge from metered commercial users that otherwise would go towards paying for water meters for residential users in the future;
•a commitment to a rate schedule that would equalize commercial and residential rates—on a per cubic metre basis—over the next 10 years, as opposed to five;
•establishing a base commercial rate equal to the flat rate for residential, with commercial customers having to pay for water on a per cubic metre basis for water used in excess of an allotted amount (equal to the monthly average number of cubic metres of water used by residential customers).
This would apply to residential customers, too, once water meters are phased in.
•a flat administrative fee for billing, not a fee equal to a percentage of the bill (this would be to the benefit of commercial customers who use great amounts of water, and thus, already have higher sewer and water bills); and
•a minimum monthly charge of $10 each for sewer and water service for customers who have disconnected their service for a period of time (e.g., after having gone south for the winter).
If the customer was gone for four months, for instance, they would pay $80 ($10/month for water, $10/month for sewer) to help maintain sewer and water lines going to their property—even though they weren’t using them for that period of time.
This would be a steady source of revenue towards infrastructure reserves.
While some councillors, including Roy Avis and Todd Hamilton, questioned whether the town could wait until the province passes Bill 175 (the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act) to implement the 10-year schedule of fee increases, Mayor Onichuk replied, “it’s long-term planning.”
“It’s smart business sense,” he said, adding there’s an element of predictability to the fee schedule, and building reserves for sewer and water infrastructure projects now reduces unexpected hikes to ratepayers when repairs are needed.
While some of the recommendations, such as spreading the fee increases over 10 years instead of five, will reduce commercial rates compared to the fee schedule presented at the June 16 public meeting with consultant Gary Scandlan of CN Watson & Associates Ltd., as to exactly how the numbers will change for both commercial and resident ratepayers will be seen at the July 11 council meeting.
CAO Mark McCaig and Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown will be spending time between now and then to prepare a new fee schedule factoring in the above recommendations.
Chamber of Commerce president Gary Rogozinski was on hand for Tuesday’s meeting.
While he thanked council for the opportunity to sit down at the meeting, he requested members of the local business community be given a chance to see the final report before council passes it.