No cheque yet for water, sewer arrears: INAC

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada confirmed yesterday that no cheque has been written yet to cover the arrears on Couchiching’s water and sewer account, but that talks with the Town of Fort Frances are ongoing.
“There’s been some correspondence back and forth. They’re in the process of negotiating an agreement,” INAC senior information officer Susan Bertrand said yesterday.
“There hasn’t been an agreement for quite a few years, and one of things they have to determine is a fee structure that accurately reflects the annual costs of water and services,” she added.
“I’m sure you’re aware of the Nov. 18 deadline,” Bertrand continued. “[But] the payment has not been agreed upon yet. Actually, nothing has been agreed upon yet.
“There’s a kind of 60-day grace period right now where the two sides have some time to try to reach an agreement,” she remarked. “There’s a back-and-forth going on in terms of communication.”
When asked if INAC felt the rates the town was charging Couchiching were too high, Bertrand replied: “As part of the process, they are looking at the numbers. And again going back to the meeting on Nov. 10, there were a number of options that needed to be explored.
“One of those things they’re going to have to come to agreement on is the amount of the payment,” said Bertrand.
“Again, it’s been a number of years that we’ve been trying to work that out with the Town of Fort Frances. Hopefully, we can reach an agreement in the near future.”
Bertrand stressed while negotiations are ongoing, “Couchiching First Nation is still being supplied water and sewer services. And we’re committed to ensuring that there’s clean drinking water to the first nation.”
Mayor Dan Onichuk had said yesterday that the issue of Couchiching’s water and sewer arrears “is not resolved,” adding work is being done “on a daily basis” to come to some resolution.
The matter was discussed behind closed doors during the committee of the whole portion of council’s regular meeting on Monday, and will be again at a special committee of the whole meeting this coming Monday (Nov. 29).