Landing residents frustrated over sewer fee

Paying for a service they don’t use has some Okanagan Landing residents upset

Paying for a service they don’t use has some Okanagan Landing residents upset.

The City of Vernon is enforcing a residential sewer base charge — $48.98 a quarter — to  anyone that has a sewer line going past their home but is not connected.

“I’m not too impressed,” said resident Shirley Blatchford.

“It’s never been mentioned that we would have to pay a sewer rate. We have a septic tank. We aren’t using the sewer system.”

Blatchford looked at the city bylaw and she says the fee should only apply to properties connected to the service. However, she says that wasn’t the response when she contacted city hall with her concerns.

“I was told that’s the way it is and there was no explanation,” she said.

“I paid the fee and wrote a letter saying it’s not justified.”

Also unhappy with the fee is resident Dean McAreavy.

“I’m paying for something I don’t use,” he said.

McAreavy says he spent $20,000 on a septic system when he built his home because sewer was not available, and then the sewer line was installed a year later.

“We didn’t know it was coming,” he said, adding that if he had known in advance that sewer was going to be available, he would have adjusted his construction plans.

The city defends the fee although property owners are not receiving sewer service.

“The infrastructure is there and they have the ability to connect to it,” said Kevin Bertles, finance manager.

“There is a cost to maintaining infrastructure.”

Such a fee has always existed in the rates bylaw, but it’s just being enforced now.

“It took us awhile to go back and compare as-billed properties to those not billed. It was part of a fairly significant project directed by council,” said Bertles.

Coun. Bob Spiers says residents should have been paying the fee since the bylaw was initiated in 2008.

“If they have a sewer line in front of them, they have the ability to access it. If they don’t (access it), that’s their choice,” he said.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky describes the fee as a standard local government protocol.

 

“You provide an amenity that improves the value of a property, so the property owner shares in the cost. Inevitably, septic fields will fail and people want to connect to sewer right now,” he said.