Water, sewer to be billed separately

Due to changes in provincial legislature, Fort Frances residents will be billed separately for hydro and sewer/water services come Jan. 1.
But how frequently they’ll be billed for water and sewer still remains up in the air.
“I have to do a report on what’s most cost-effective—monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or whatever,” town treasurer Diane Pearson said Thursday morning.
The subject had sparked discussion at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting. “For some people, being billed in a group of three months is not reasonable,” said Coun. Sharon Tibbs.
“Every three months billing is what came out of our discussions,” responded Coun. Deane Cunningham, referring to the Administration and Finance executive committee, which made the recommendation.
“While it’s not written in stone, we simply found it more economical. But we have until Jan. 1 to figure out how to handle it,” he added.
CAO Bill Naturkach noted council has to make a decision by October in order to give town staff time to get ready for the new billing system.
Pearson noted a quarterly sewer and water bill for the average household could amount to about $120.
But council did agree to another change in the billing—eliminating the penalty and interest on water and sewer outstanding balances, effective May 22.
Up until May 1, penalty/interest on water, sewer, and hydro arrears were calculated at five percent on any current balances outstanding.
Effective May 1, the hydro portion of the bill is allowed to accumulate interest on outstanding amounts at 1.5 percent compounded. Municipalities are not allowed to charge compound interest on any outstanding amounts.
Thunder Bay Hydro’s computer systems will not allow the town to charge compound interest on hydro and one-time interest on water and sewer.
As such, Pearson contacted Thunder Bay Hydro and had it remove penalty and interest on the water and sewer portion of customers’ bills and set up compound interest in the hydro portion only.
The town had budgeted a total of $18,400 in penalty and interest charges for sewer and water in its 2002 budget. As of the beginning of May, a total of $6,881.32 had been accumulated.