Petrolia considers raising fixed water rates

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Petrolia may increase the fixed water rates to help pay for an aging water system.

That’s according to the town’s asset management plan approved by Petrolia councillors Monday.

Every town in Ontario is required to have a plan which lays out the value and condition of all its capital assets, everything from buildings to roads to the local sewer and water systems.

Jessica McNally, Asset Management Coordinator, in a report to council says the value of the town’s infrastructure is pegged at $364 million. About 75 per cent of the town’s assets are considered to be in good or fair condition.

The plan, which looks at the age, condition and risks of each asset, shows the local water system needs the most work with 47 per cent of the water assets listed in very poor or poor condition. The report says about $39 million should be spent to replace parts of the system.

McNally, in her report to council says some of the infrastructure is aging and “significant growth in population and employment will lead to increased demand and pressure on water resources. This added pressure may decrease useful life or cause potential service disruption.”

And McNally says the way the town’s water rates are structured is part of the reason it is not replacing the pipes faster. About 77 per cent of the revenue coming from the water system is based on consumption and cannot be accurately forecasted. The rest of the cash comes from a fixed rate which is meant to improve the infrastructure and pay for administration of the water system. “Town staff is discussing the possibility of increasing the fixed water rate and reducing the variable rate to improve future budgeting,” she writes.

The water system is not the only Petrolia asset which needs attention.

In her report McNally lists Victoria Hall, the new fire department training centre, and the Greenwood Recreation Centre in very poor condition. The report estimates replacement values for the buildings at $35.2 million for the area, $22.6 million for Victoria Hall and $10 million for the training centre.

The rating seems to be linked to accessibility issues in the older buildings. McNally says the town recently completed a facilities assessment plan which “identified accessibility concerns of multiple facilities, including many renovations required at Victoria Hall. The town conducted an engineering study to address the minimum essential requirements for Victoria Hall.

In December, town council approved a $3.5 million addition which includes accessible washrooms and an elevator to the balcony of the theatre saying it could be constructed once the funding is found.

The report also points out the town doesn’t have “sufficient funds” to properly maintain its 79 km of roads. About 60 per cent of the ‘collector’ roads are rated as fair, poor or very poor.

“Working with a road expert, staff have proposed a balanced approach to addressing the town’s total road construction needs while giving priority to preserving and extending the useful life of the roads in good condition, before they require a total road reconstruction. Staff will actively seek grant funds to address these needs,” says McNally in the report.

If Petrolia wants to keep all of its roads, bridges, buildings and water systems in top shape, it needs to spend about $1.6 million more each year, McNally writes in the plan.

But to improve all the assets to that level would require another $1.6 million in capital spending each year for the next 10 to 20 years.

In 2023, the town put aside nearly $4 million for capital projects however spent $2.56 million.