City council held a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12 to answer questions about water and sewer rates that were raised throughthe Thoughtexchange process that the city used to engage the public in this issue. While council has decided to postponechanging the rates, the felt it was important to provide questions to citizens’ questions in the mean time.
Mayor Kathy Moore picked out a sample of some of the most common questions to answer at the meeting, although she alsotook questions from the floor.
Here is just a sample of some of the questions Rosslanders asked during the Thoughtexchange process, and summaries ofthe answers provided by Moore.
“Why are people charged for capacity available and not just the amount they use?”
The plan to raise the water and sewer rates was put in motion after the city received a report from a consultant hired to assessthe city’s water and sewer services. According to the consultant, it’s considered best practice to charge based on capacity, butthe city wants to make sure it finds an equitable solution and reports back from staff indicated that charging based oncapacity may not be fair for all of Rossland’s downtown businesses. That being said, meters on larger pipes are moreexpensive to replace ($1300 for a 2” meter versus $300 for a .75” meter) and the meters need to be replaced every 15 years,so the cost of replacement needs to be built into the rate structure somehow.
“Forty-three per cent water loss seems high. Do you have any plans to investigate and remedy these losses? Youshould be able to reduce costs significantly if you do so.”
Some of the city’s lost water is unmetered water that the city doesn’t get paid for. For instance water used to flush thehydrants and water lines, clean the reservoirs, and water used in street sweeping, road construction and repair, fire fighting,and landscaping around town are included in the 43 per cent. Whereas there is some water used by the city that is meteredand is accounted for internally. Some of the 43 per cent is also from leakage and the city has plans to conduct a night flowwater analysis — where they’ll look for unexplained water use in the middle of the night — to locate some of the leaks andhave them repaired.
“Eleven per cent and 15 per cent per year increases are certainly attention-grabbing. Work hard on those other grantapplications and final cost reductions because I doubt Rosslanders saw these large annual increases coming ‘down thepipe’.”
Mayor Moore said that while the consultant recommended 11 and 15 per cent increases, council feels those increases are notaffordable and don’t anticipate that happening. The city plans to work hard at getting infrastructure grants and is looking forways to lower costs.
“Rossland has the highest property taxes in the region. The proposed increased costs for water and sewer negativelyaffect affordability. Will changes to the water & sewer rates deter new residents & businesses?”
Mayor Moore was conscious of Rossland’s higher taxes, but pointed out that Rossland also differs from its neighbours.
“Taxes are often cited as an issue in Rossland compared to our neighbors. It’s true, our taxes are higher but it’s not an applesto apples comparison,” she said. “Other local governments either have large industrial taxpayers or utilities to help defraytheir costs or they don’t offer a lot of facilities or services. Rossland is unique in that we offer a full range of facilities andservices but we only have residential taxpayers to cover the costs.”
Moore also acknowledged that not everyone used every facility or service, but said that for all the people who wouldn’t mindseeing a facility closed down, there were still many who valued and used the facility.
“When reading the information on justification for increase, I understood that mandatory water meters HAD to beinstalled at a certain time. I recently read in one of the newsletters that a few households are not on meters and stillare paying the old rates. How is this justified?”
According to Moore, Rossland has 45 homes that have picked up their meters, but haven’t installed them, and two homes thathaven’t yet picked them up.
“We have sent many letters out with little to no response as to why they are not installing the meters,” she said. “Under thenew rates, properties that do not have meters will pay very high rates for water. Some are just non-compliant and new ratesfor unmetered will hit them hard.”