Sewer, water rates to jump 10 percent

While town council won’t vote on the bylaw until its July 25 meeting, it passed a motion Monday night for a 10 percent increase in sewer and water rates for both commercial and residential classes.
CAO Mark McCaig put the recommendation forward, noting the town isn’t quite ready to implement a 10-year fee schedule, as the one put forth by consultant Gary Scandlan of CN Watson & Associates at the June 16 public meeting here.
He added if the town were to have increased sewer and water rates back in January, it would have been an 19 percent hike across the board to meet the expenses for 2005.
But to mitigate the impact of that, McCaig recommended council consider a 10 percent jump across the board, retroactive to July 1, 2005, with another $316,670.54 coming out of town reserves to cover what the rate increase will not.
“I realize it’s an interim step until we can figure out all the numbers. But could it be 7.5 to residential and 12.5 to commercial?” asked Mayor Dan Onichuk, noting he felt the blanket increase does nothing to address the existing disparity between residential and commercial rates.
“I have to speak against this. We’ve already identified the process to move forward,” he added, referring to the 10-year fee schedule recommended by Scandlan.
The mayor stressed council still must address the inequality between residential and commercial rates, and the fact residents are subsidizing the commercial sector.
“I think a 10 percent increase across the board is further widening the gap between the residential and commercial,” said Mayor Onichuk.
But at the end of the evening, council voted in favour of the 10 percent increase by a vote of 6-1, with only Mayor Onichuk voting “nay.”
“We have to give some money to Doug [Brown, manager of Operations and Facilities] to maintain the system,” reasoned Coun. Todd Hamilton.
“This is a stop-gap measure to get us through the year,” echoed Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.
McCaig noted this year’s increase did not mean the town was abandoning the long-term plan to build up reserves and pay for the “lifecycle” costing of the town’s sewer and water infrastructure.
Rather, it just means council and management will have more time to fine-tune the fee schedule and consider recommendations, such as those made at a special committee of the whole meeting last Tuesday (July 5).
“We’re a long ways away from it being perfect,” he remarked.
Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce president Gary Rogozinski also spoke at Monday night’s meeting, stating the town should forego any significant rate increases this year.
Instead, he said, council should wait until the provincial regulations are finalized, and put into effect, before instituting a multi-year fee schedule that would see the commercial sector paying large rate increases.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•passed a bylaw to adopt the 2005 water and sewer funds budget;
•passed a bylaw to repeal Bylaw No. 17/05 (to authorize the construction of certain new replacement sidewalks as local improvements);
•passed a bylaw to authorize the executive of a supplemental agreement for airport capital funding with the Minister of Transport;
•passed a bylaw to authorize the 2005 and 2006 salary ranges for management and non-union employees;
•approved a break-open ticket licence application from La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary at the Bonnie Blue from July 16, 2005-Dec. 16, 2005;
•agreed to a request from the Arthritis Society to proclaim September, 2005 as “Arthritis Awareness Month” in the Town of Fort Frances; and
•approved an application for Zoning Bylaw Amendment-File No. 8.98-Y (this is to rezone property at 306 Victoria Ave. from C2-General Commercial to R3-Residential Type Three).