Water rates on the rise in C-K

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chatham-Kent households are about to see a modest increase in water/wastewater rates.

At its regular meeting Jan. 18, the Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission approved a bylaw change that will see the cost to average household rise by about $32 annually.

According to a report from PUC general manager Darren Galbraith, the average residence goes through an estimated 17 cubic metres of water per month.

The commission heard there’s been no increase in C-K water fees since 2014. The PUC does not receive any upper-level government funding, meaning water treatment, delivery, improvements and maintenance are financed by water users across the board.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing coming our way,” Galbraith told the meeting, noting if the commission was to decrease rates “we would be struggling to maintain our level of service, infrastructure and operations.”

Galbraith said the rates help with the rising costs associated with hydro, chemicals and mechanical needs.

Future lifecycle and debt financing costs must be factored in as well, he said.

Chatham’s Kent’s increase is lower than some neighbouring communities, such as Sarnia, which recently approved a 7.8-per-cent annual increase.

West Kent Coun. Lauren Anderson, who sits on the PUC board, said that while the municipality doesn’t want to boost rates, ensuring a safe water supply is something that shouldn’t be skimped on.

“You don’t want the one-ply toilet paper no matter how cheap it is,” Anderson said. “There’s certain things that you don’t want to cheap out on. Obviously, our water is one of those things. It is council’s responsibility to be accountable but it’s also our responsibility to make sure we have the level of services that we need and require.”

In his comments, Mayor Darrin Canniff said it was his understanding the latest increase comes mostly from inflation.

“Water safety is number one. Period,” Canniff said. “We need to make sure that we are doing everything right. We’ve seen what happens when things aren’t done right in other communities. That’s not acceptable.”

Under the Ontario Municipal Act, the bylaw for water fees must be set each year. The increase comes into effect immediately.

On average taxpayers will see around $2.66 added to their utility bill each month.

The recommendation for the increase is based on a study by economic consulting firm Watson and Associates. According to Galbraith, officials from the consulting group said most municipalities are facing double-digit increases.

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