Petrolia Mayor John McCharles is not expecting to see a major decrease in water and sewage rates anytime soon.
Over the last four years, water and sewage rates have climbed steadily – last year alone water rates rose 10 per cent and sewage rates were 27 per cent higher than the year before. The sewage rates are expected to increase another ten per cent in 2016 and seven per cent in 2017. Water rates, according to the study, should increase by the same rate as inflation.
A consultant recommended the increases after studying the work which needed to be done on the water and sewage system in town. The biggest problem would be paying for a new sewage treatment plant which was expected to cost $21 million. The province has mandated water and sewage treatment plants must pay for themselves.
So the town increased rates and faced some complaints last year with the steep increases. At the time, town staff said it might be possible to lower some of the sewage rates particularly if the federal and provincial governments came through with funding for the plant. They did and now staff is studying whether rates can be lowered.
But McCharles isn’t holding out a lot of hope for large decreases after a recent education session lead by the town’s treasurer, Rick Charlebois.
He outlined all of the projects which weren’t included in the original consultants report which raised rates. They include $5 million to repair and replace the lift stations which push sewage to the treatment plant, $2 million to replace the town’s water reservoir on Confederation Line, and repairs at the water treatment plant – including a new water intake – which run into the millions of dollars as well.
And that doesn’t include repairing water and sewer lines under roads which will be rebuilt over the next ten years.
“I don’t see a major decrease in rates,” says McCharles. “I see it leveling off.”
The mayor says the town has to put away some cash to make sure the improvements to the water and sewage system are made.
“I don’t want to catch ourselves as we did before. The rates were not kept up-to-date for the replacement of infrastructure so all of the sudden it hits you.
“You have to do infrastructure projects and you need the money – we have to be cautious that we don’t lower our rates and catch ourselves behind the eight ball.”
Town staff will present the water and sewer rates at the budget sessions this month.