Service installation billing sent back for further review

Duane Hicks

It’s back to the drawing board.

Town council on Monday night voted 3-2 against a recommendation to keep the current pricing method for the installation of sewer and water services for properties in Fort Frances, meaning the issue once again will be referred back to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for further review.

The recommendation from the Operation and Facilities executive committee stated the current “time and material plus 10 percent” method for the installation of sewer and water services remain in place, and that the town should adopt a quotation sheet in addition to the current application form for customers wanting service lines installed.

But Coun. Ken Perry, along with Couns. John Albanese and Doug Kitowski, voted against it, feeling the town charges too much to install sewer and water services.

“My problem is we’re just too darned expensive compared to other municipalities in Northwestern Ontario,” he remarked.

Coun. Perry said he checked with Sioux Lookout and reported they charge $3,000-$6,000 to install a service line while Marathon estimated it would charge $3,000-$5,000.

Atikokan charges in the neighbourhood of $3,500–and maybe less because it charges on a per metre basis.

Red Lake does not install its own sewer and water services but sells a permit for $800 and the customer hires their own contractor.

Kenora also permits customers to hire their own contractor.

“I think our estimate of $14,000 for sewer or water, and $19,000 for sewer and water, is prohibitive and people are not going to come into this town and spend that kind of money on sewer and water,” Coun. Perry charged.

He added three different people came to him since last Thursday and told him the price for sewer and water installation here was too high, and that they could get it done elsewhere for cheaper.
One property owner was considering selling his current building and moving to a new location,
But when he talked to the town about getting sewer and water installations at a new building, he found out the price and decided to stay where he is, Coun. Perry noted.

“We are restricting development by the price of our sewer and water,” he stressed.

Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown clarified the $14,000 and $19,000 rates Coun. Perry referred to were proposed as part of a fixed price model where the rates are established high enough to cover all inequalities between installation costs.

In other words, if the town was to go to a fixed rate model, the rates would be set so the town would not lose money.

The actual cost of installations could be lower or higher than the fixed rate, but they would balance each other out.

This fixed price model was rejected by the Operations and Facilities executive committee during the review process, with the rationale that one ratepayer should not be subsidizing the installation of another ratepayer’s installation.

Instead, the committee had recommended the town stay with its current “time and material plus 10 percent” method.

“It’s hard to please everyone,” said Brown, noting this issue has been discussed since December.

The town does not do a lot of sewer and water installations–only four in the past four years.

Looking back over the last four or five years, the actual cost of installing sewer and water lines here has ranged from $8,000-$12,000, Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob noted.

Coun. Wendy Brunetta and Mayor Roy Avis supported the recommendation, with the mayor noting the new quotation sheet added transparency by showing a breakdown of costs when the town offers a customer an estimate.