Rate hike on tap

Turning on the tap is going to cost more in Greater Vernon.

Turning on the tap is going to cost more in Greater Vernon.

On Wednesday, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee proposed to increase water utility rates for all categories, including 20 per cent for the average single-family residential home.

“We need to educate the public that this isn’t expensive,” said director Mike Macnabb.

“We have been undervaluing this commodity for years.”

The quarterly residential base fee could go from $50.15 to $66.20. If the rate is ratified by the North Okanagan Regional District, the average residential bill will go from $480.58 to $579.70 a year.

“The increase is to cover our fixed costs which are 80 per cent of our costs,” said director Jim Garlick, pointing out that the Duteau Creek water treatment facility is now fully operational.

“Everyone who has a tap needs this plant. We need to pay towards the flat rate.”

GVAC is also preparing to meet Interior Health Authority guidelines such as filtration.

The base fee does not include the initial use of 20 cubic metres of water. After the base fee, water will be charged based on consumption.

Director Gyula Kiss, who voted against the rates, is concerned the higher flat fee will be unfair for people who use less than the average amount of water.

“Low users, people on fixed incomes, will pay a huge amount,” he said.

As a way of lowering rates, Kiss insists money should not be put aside in capital reserves and as funds are required for major projects, a borrowing referendum be held.

“The current customer should not be carrying the weight for future development,” he said.

Wayne Lippert, GVAC chairperson, doesn’t believe the proposed rates are out of line when compared to other communities.

“In Area C (BX-Silver Star), there is a private water utility with a $600 flat fee, restrictions to the hilt and they’re on a boil water advisory,” he said.

A GVAC survey of other communities shows that compared to the average bill of $480.58 in Greater Vernon in 2010, the cost was $577 in Kamloops, a minimum of $352.25 in Salmon Arm, $467 in Lake Country (unmetred homes), $431.10 in Westbank, $686.28 in Summerland, $387 in Penticton, $466 in the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District and a minimum of $325.94 with the City of Kelowna utility.

Rates have not been set in other jurisdictions for 2011.

The NORD board will consider the new rate structure as part of its 2011 budget process, which will be completed by March 31.