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Public's chance to weigh in on new water/sewer rates

Only 68 of 2,700 residential water meters have not yet been installed.

The City of Castlegar is now beginning a public consultation phase to bring the city closer to a user-pay water/sewer system, an initiative that has been in the works since 2005.

According to a report by city deputy director of finance Lois Hunter, the move toward water meters and consumption-based rates was a necessary goal for the city.

“The City of Castlegar’s existing water and sewer rate structures no longer meet current needs for maintenance, operation, and infrastructure upgrades,” Hunter said. “While most of the City’s (sic) residential customers have water meters, the current flat-rate structure does not:

·         Ensure financial stability in water and sewer operations;

·         Encourage water conservation;

·         Ensure fair water rates for all user groups;

·         Reduce peak demand to extend the lifespan of water and sewer infrastructure;

·         Provide enough in reserves to upgrade the system in future. “

Under the proposed rate schedule, residents would be charged a flat rate (which would cover costs such as infrastructure building, maintenance and upgrades, as well as a charge if consumption exceeds 30 cubic metres per month (this, to cover operational costs). The fee collection will be revenue neutral, and any money collected for water can only be used within the water utility, and the same applies to sewer fees.

The specifics of those charges will be outlined during four presentations at an open house at the Community Forum on Nov. 1 between 3 and 8 p.m. (the presentations to be held at 4, 5, 6 and 7 p.m.), along with opportunity to discuss the proposal, ask questions, and provide feedback.

Those unable to attend are encouraged to go to the city’s website at www.castlegar.ca/waterandsewer to see the display panels, review answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and fill in the online feedback form. There’s also an online tool through which people can enter their consumption rates (which you can find on last year’s bill) to see what they’d be paying under the new rate structure.

“For the past year, homes and businesses in Castlegar with water meters have been receiving information on their quarterly utility bills showing how much water they’ve been using,” said city manager Chris Barlow in a recent press release. “The information gathered from our local community, along with water industry best practices and lessons learned from other communities, has helped us develop a made-in-Castlegar rate structure that is equitable for all user groups.”

Only 68 of the 2,700 residential water meters have yet to be installed, and Barlow explained that the flat rate for those who opt out of having a meter will likely be higher than what the homeowner would be charged under the user-pay system.

The information provided also addresses the impact for commercial, industrial and institutional rate payers, as well as a comparative analysis of costs in neighbouring communities.

“We’re proposing it be phased in over a period of three years, beginning 2018,” Barlow said.

“Please join us at the open house to learn more about the proposed rate structure,” said Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff. “Your feedback is important and will help better inform decisions about how we can create more sustainable water and sewer systems.”

After the consultation process, feedback will be brought before city council for their consideration.