Utilities rates rising in Rossland

Rossland city council plans to increase water and sewer rates, but it can expect some opposition from local businesses.

Rossland city council is moving forward with a plan to increase water and sewer rates, but it can expect some opposition.

Two new bylaws would introduce increased pricing for water and sewer starting Jan. 1, 2016.

Council’s goal in implementing the bylaws is to make the two utilities self-supporting, and the City’s rationale is that current rates don’t reflect the true cost of operating the system, but that’s little comfort to those facing steep hikes come January.

Mike Williams, secretary of the Rossland Fraternal Order of Eagles, said the increased cost could make them consider closing down Canada’s oldest Aerie.

“That would be an option that we’d be forced to look at,” he said.

The new billing structure will charge customers based on a combination of their pipe size and usage. While most homeowners will only see an annual fixed rate increase of about $16 for water and $74 for sewer, businesses are seeing significantly larger increases.

The Eagles for instance will see an increase of about $1,536 for water and $2,436 for sewer. A total annual increase of about $3,972 or 570 per cent.

The Eagles rent out the top floor of the Aerie for dance classes, but Williams said they wouldn’t want to look at increasing rental costs for the space to meet costs.

“That’s going to hurt the kids in the community that are dancing,” he said.

“And their parents,” added the club’s vice-president, who asked not to be named.

Neither of them want to see kids forced from dance because of increased costs being passed along.

Williams, the vice-president and a trustee all explained that the Eagles give revenue back to the community, and provide space for events. Benefits that will be impacted by increased costs.

The Royal Canadian Legion will likely face similar increases, but president Doug Haladay didn’t see that there was much choice in the matter.

“We’re not excited about it, but we have to be practical and pay the bill,” he said.

Casa Alpina will see the same increase to its annual fixed water rate as the Eagles, but will see a slightly higher increase in its sewer rate (up by $2,548) since its currently paying less than the Eagles for this utility.

Part of the intent of the new billing structure is to “charge fair and equitable rates for all customers based on an easy to understand structure.”

But whatever the rationale, Avtar Powar, owner of Casa Alpina, still isn’t sure how he’ll manage the increase, given his motel has had 25 per cent fewer bookings this year than last year.

He said that given his occupancy rate and the fact that there’s no longer a restaurant in the motel, the water pipe he has for his building is bigger than needed. But to put in a smaller pipe, thereby reducing his annual fixed fee, would cost him even more up front.

Documents released before the regular council meeting on Tuesday, also told Rosslanders to expect an 11 per cent increase to water rates each year until 2030, and then a three per cent increase until 2037. Sewer rates are expected to increase 15 per cent per year for the next eight years, and then increase by five per cent until 2036.

At the regular council meeting on Sept. 28, council did the first two read throughs of the two new bylaws, and directed city staff to prepare the two bylaws for public consultation.

At Tuesday’s meeting, staff returned with a plan for a public meeting that will be held on Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Seniors’ Centre.