Water users in Cumberland getting only two more mock bills

Cumberland residents are one step closer to paying varying amounts for their water, depending on how much they consume.

Cumberland council approved the 'mock' consumption-based water rates — used in the spring and summer mock water bills that went out — as the final water rates. Village staff will now draft a water meter rates bylaw for council consideration at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Residents will receive two more mock water bills, with the final mock bill issued in April, giving residents a full year of mock bills. In August, the first real bill using the new consumption-based rates will be issued if the process continues as expected.

"I think that this process has been rolled out very, very carefully by staff," said Coun. Gwyn Sproule, who noted the new consumption-based system is designed to make water rates more fair, as the current flat rate system sees those who use less water subsidize those who use more.

"Some will see an increase or a decrease to, again, make it fair; it's all about fairness," continued Sproule.

The consumption-based rates include a fixed charge and a variable charge based on water consumption. The fixed charge is $31 per quarter year for single-family residential, plus a uniform rate of $0.42/m3; the fixed charge is $27 per unit per quarter year for multi-family, plus a uniform rate of $0.44/m3; the fixed charge per quarter year is based on meter size (meter size charges range from $24 for 5/8" to $230.40 for 6") for commercial, plus a uniform rate of $0.68/m3.

Coun. Kate Greening voted against the motion to move forward, noting she wanted to delay water rate consideration until the following council meeting (Feb. 27), when a report about examples of potential policy issues is expected to come forward. A couple of the potential policy issues listed were higher bills due to leaks, large families or medical issues.

But, the rest of council voted to move forward with the process, as any decision around potential policies to deal with these situations would have little to no effect on what the overall water rates should be.

Coun. Conner Copeman also noted rates could be amended at a later date if council decides to do so.

According to a staff report, 50 per cent of residential single-family customers will see a $15 or less increase in their water bill, 50 per cent of multi-family customers will see a $2 or more decrease in their bill, and 50 per cent of commercial customers will see a $35 or more decrease in their bill.

Village staff had surveyed residents as one method of gathering public input about switching to consumption-based billing. Thirty-one surveys were completed and, of those, 28 per cent would prefer staying with a fixed rate structure.

Sproule noted the number of people who would prefer a flat rate as she questioned how people would react if hydro was billed using flat rates, with lower users subsidizing higher users.

"I don't think people would be very happy," she said. "I don't really understand why there's a perception of any difference in this. This is a service, this is treated water that's being supplied."


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