Sewage review report presented to Bridgewater council

Sanitary rate to be based on consumption

Sewage waste rates in Bridgewater may soon be set according to consumption, similar to the way in which water rates are set.

The sanitary rate review progress report was presented to council on March 3, and a change to the current rate system with the aim of moving toward full cost recovery is its first step.

“It is a practical system; it’s a fair system. The users of the system that contribute the greatest load to the system will help pay for the system,” said Tim Hiltz, environmental services manager for the Town of Bridgewater and the public service commission of Bridgewater.

“It adds that level of responsibility on the onus of the customer.”

Last April, Motion 14-098 was passed, which allowed council to proceed with a change to the town’s sanitary sewage rates to eventually provide funds to operate, maintain, upgrade and sustain a sanitary sewage system to meet both environmental requirements and best practices.

“Rate increases over the years have resulted in the current rate covering only approximately direct operation and maintenance costs and approximately less of the waste management and maintenance costs,” said Mr. Hiltz.

Part of the motion was to retain a third-party consultant experienced in allocating costs. G.A. Isenor Consulting Ltd. was retained for this purpose last spring. It’s developing a model for future cost accounting and rate determination.

These new rates will likely be based upon this user consumption model.

But not all councillors were in agreement with Mr. Hiltz.

“It’s not fair to young families. They have a lot of kids, they bathe more, they do all that, and they’re paying while a rich person who’s gone down south all winter doesn’t use it, so they’re getting off cheap,” said Deputy Mayor Bill McInnis.

“A flat rate is the way I’d go, but it’s my opinion. It would be a lot easier to calculate too, I would think.”

The sewer rate was increased by 15 per cent last year and may be increased by the same amount again in the coming budget.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” said Dawn Keizer, chief financial officer for Bridgewater.

The current residential annual sewer rate is $174.70.

Allocation of costs associated with engineering, finance and administration services still have to be broken down to determine if this new rate will equal a full cost recovery.

A second draft of a sanitary sewer rate model will be completed shortly by G.A. Isenor Consulting Ltd. This will allow sufficient time to review a new sanitary sewer bylaw and present this new rate to council during the 2015-16 budget deliberations.

“The numbers from the initial one were not even close to being right because a lot of the capital and infrastructure debt was not incorporated into the original model,” said Mr. Hiltz.

“The preliminary evaluation of the sanitary sewer system indicates significant influence on future funding. Because of the decision of the funding system used in the past, the sanitary sewer has been underfunded for an extended period of time, because of that capital expenditures have not been made to maintain that system. That is evident as you go through the system and evaluate the current needs of that system and the ability of that system to meet new regulations,” said Mr. Hiltz.

Most questions around future rate regulation have not been answered yet.

Impact assessments will take place in 2017.

Agreements with other users and sanitary anomalies will have to be adjusted and calculated as well.

The sanitary sewer bylaw will also be revised to include best management practices.

“This will give us the opportunity to look at sewer use as well as sewer rate bylaws,” said Mr. Hiltz.

The study has cost around $6,000 so far.

“Until we have all the information there will be no final decisions made,” said Mr. Hiltz.

“There’s been no final decisions as to what final rates will look like or how exactly that money will be utilized within the budget framework. It’s very preliminary at this point.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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