Council passed three readings of the new water and sewer rate bylaws Monday night at the council meeting.
The bylaw stands with the recommendations added at the last council meeting.
Council had asked staff to further look into the possibility of offering a rebate to the lowest users but did not include a rebate in the bylaw. Several reasons were given including the fact that low users will already be paying less than they are now, there has not been a rate increase in two years and the large amount of administrative time that such a program would take to manage.
Council did, however, decide that once they have the full first year of data to look at that they will revisit the rebate option next year.
Coun. Bruno Tassone voted against the bylaw. The main reason he gave was that he didn’t feel the city had done enough with conservation, so didn’t think it was fair to ask residents to do something the city had not done.
“We have to be leaders and until we get our stuff sorted out and show the public that we want to be conservers with water I can’t support this bylaw,” he said.
When asked after the meeting how he would like to see residents charged for water and sewer he explained that he would prefer to stay on the old flat-rate system.
Coun. Florio Vassilakakis took issue with Tassone’s view of the city not working on conservation.
“We have been incentivizing toilet replacement, we have installed new sprinkling systems in parks that are computer controlled, we’ve spent time and effort in metering our parks so we can get that data and so that we can make better decisions with watering,” said Vassilakakis.
“I don’t know that it is fair to paint the city as a waster of water.”
Vassilakakis further added, “One of the things we have had a discussion about numerous times is about the service level the people want to see in this community — do they want green grass, do they want us to spray down the sidewalks and clean the roads — obviously that takes water.”
“I don’t think … we should kibosh an entire rate structure with water and sewer because of a viewpoint like that.”
Vassilakakis then asked Tassone for some examples to support his claim.
Tassone responded by asking how many city parks had meters.
The discussion was then referred to CAO Chris Barlow who explained that a major capital program saw that all major parks had been fitted with meters this year.
Tassone then asked if the volumes had been looked at.
“We do record those — we collect those just like every other meter in town,” said Barlow.
Tassone wanted to know if the city was conserving water.
Barlow explained, “As we have just installed those … we don’t have a comparison.”
“That’s my point,” said Tassone. “We have no comparison …”
Vasilakakis added, “I think we have shown we are interested in conserving water by making these steps towards giving ourselves better data to conserve … how many years is it going to take to show that we have conservation on our minds before we can implement a system that more equitably distributes the cost of the water and sewer system across the community?”
The bylaw will move forward for adoption at a future council meeting on the new year.
Licences and permits
The year-to-date business licence report shows that 2018 licences are almost identical to last year. Licences are up by five and the monetary value is up by one dollar.
Building permits are up by two for the year, but as has been the case all year the dollar value is down due to the spike last year from the Fortis building construction.
Coun. Vassilakakis reported that through conversations with Castlegar director of development services Phil Markin he has learned that things are very busy for the department.
“The development services team … is as busy as they have been in the past 15 to 20 years,” said Vassilikakis. “So while there is not a lot showing up in the last couple months that would make us get excited — there are a lot of things going on, a lot of questions being fielded by the staff there on future developments. It is really exciting to hear that people are looking to Castlegar.”