Sewer rates climbing for Coldstream users

Sewer fees set to increase in 2012 within the District of Coldstream

Efforts to flush out a new system of sewer fees have gone down the toilet in Coldstream. But rates are still going up.

Coldstream’s sewer fees for 2012 will increase to a $56.45 base fee per quarter plus a consumption rate of $2.51 per cubic metre.

The current rate is $54.19 plus $2.31 per cubic metre of consumption.

Coun. Gyula Kiss had hoped to persuade his colleagues to adopt a truer user-pay system. But despite a data-packed presentation, he was unsuccessful in gaining much support.

Kiss’ proposed system would see the quarterly base fee rise to $80, which includes up to 20 cubic metres, and an additional $4 per cubic metre of consumption after that (he says the true unit cost of sewage treatment is $4).

“Since 83 per cent of the customers use 63 cubic metres or less per quarter they pay $252 per quarter,” said Kiss, adding that the system, which the City of Vernon uses, is not new.

Those numbers represent a $40 to $45 annual increase for the average sewer customer – which happens to be families.

“The majority of consumers fall between that 30 to 70 cubic metre range which is generally families, which are going to pay the brunt of it,” said Trevor Seibel, director of financial administration.

Although it would have been a big change to the system, Seibel has no issues with the proposed system.

“This is a big step to more of a true user-pay system,” he said of Kiss’ proposal which would have generated Coldstream an additional $70,000 in revenue.

But some politicians aren’t prepared to put the burden on families.

“We are actually going to penalize larger families and they have no choice, consumption is consumption,” said Coun. Peter McClean.

“I think staff’s recommendation protects those large families more than this one (Kiss’ recommendation) does.”

Kiss defended his proposal, noting that having a larger family means more expenses in virtually every area of life, from groceries to clothing, water and sewer.

Having her own family of six, Coun. Maria Besso supported Kiss’ proposal.

“In this case, it really is fair,” she said, adding that families may be motivated to then fix leaky pipes and toilets.

The system being adopted in Coldstream, based on staff recommendations, will have a small increase to the low sewer users but a larger increase to the higher sewer consumers.

An an example the cost in 2011 for a home using 70 cubic metres per quarter is approximately $216. That number will increase to $232 for 2012, if the bylaw is adopted at the next regular council meeting.

For those consuming less than 15 cubic meters (as an example, snowbirds), a minimum charge of 15 cubic meters, plus the base fee, will apply for a total of $94.10.

There are 2,400 sewer users in Coldstream, representing 24 per cent of the district’s 10,000 residents.