Sewer, water rates set to jump here Public meeting slated to outline the increases

Due to legislation recently passed by the provincial government, Fort Frances residents can expect to see an increase in their sewer and water bills starting next month.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown confirmed Tuesday that sewer and water rates will be going up here, but refused to disclose exactly how much.
“[The rates] are going to go up but I don’t want to speculate on [the amount],” said Brown, noting the hikes will not become official until approved by town council.
But Brown did say residents will see a greater increase in their sewer and water rates than they did on their municipal property taxes.
Specifics of the proposed increase to sewer and water rates for 2005 and 2006 will be made available at a public information meeting next Thursday (June 16), noted Brown.
At that session, Gary Scandlan—hired by the town back in February to examine how two new provincial laws would impact rates here—will explain how much rates will be going up by and why the increase is necessary.
“There is going to be more information at the meeting on the proposed rates,” Brown said. “You’ll see how much they’ve increased.”
The proposed sewer and water rates for 2005 and 2006 will come before council at its June 27 meeting. If approved, they will be applied effective July 1.
Increasing the rates is basically the only option the town has, Brown stressed.
The Sustainable Water and Sewage System Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act—both of which were passed by the Ontario government in 2002 and are expected to be implemented soon—apply new provide-wide regulations on water systems.
They also require municipalities to budget for the full life-cycle of water and sewage piping and other related infrastructure.
In other words, residents across Ontario, not just here in Fort Frances, will begin paying immediately to ensure that when a component of the water or sewage system needs to be replaced, the municipality already has the money set aside to do so.
Both pieces of legislation are the result of recommendations stemming from the inquiry into the E. coli disaster in Walkerton.
“This is a big cost for the town,” Brown remarked. “Our rates will have to reflect full-cycle recovery for re-building [the infrastructure].
“We have to have enough money to sustain the system in reserves,” he stressed.
Brown said Fort Frances already has about $1 million set aside to fund work on the local water system and an additional $1 million to fund work on the sewage system.
But the town needs roughly $400,000 more in each account, he noted.
The water and sewage piping system used in Fort Frances has a life-cycle of about 80 years, Brown said. Since some pieces were installed as far back as 1922, they’ll need to be replaced very soon.
A total of nine sewer spot repairs are scheduled to be completed in the coming months. Crews currently are working on one on the south side of First Street East, between Colonization Road East and Williams Avenue.
Brown said the new legislation makes long-term sense, but admitted it puts a big burden on taxpayers to help build up the reserves for future repairs.
“You’ve got to be able to replace all the infrastructure once it’s worn out,” he noted. “It makes sense why they [implemented the change] but the problem is how much money is available.
“It’s complicated,” he added.
Brown stressed sewer and water rates are not linked to the municipal property taxes and are not included in the budget determined by council each year.
“Water and sewer is self-sustained,” he explained. “In other words, all the revenue charged has to cover all the expenditures.”
Under the current system, sewer and water rates are determined by the cost of running the systems, with some cash being placed into the reserves each year.