After examining the options for lowering metered water rates, Comox council approved a recommendation Wednesday to reduce rates and increase the minimum monthly amount for metered users.
Council also approved a report that residents be given the opportunity of opting out of the voluntary water meter program, on a year-by-year basis, following a presentation last week by Comox resident Natasha Baert-Hockin.
“This will give people the option, and whether this will entice more people, we’ll see,” said Mayor Paul Ives.
The recommendation calls for the monthly amount to drop from $17.50 to $15.00, with the amount of water included in that fee increased from 12 cubic metres to 14 m3 per month.
Last week, Baert-Hockin presented to council as a delegation her request to be removed from the water meter program.
“At present, a metered household will pay more than an unmetered one,” she said at the time, and explained she signed up for the program not realizing it was a permanent decision.
While she admitted she should have more thoroughly reviewed the information prior to registering, she admitted to being “quite shocked” by the excessive cost of water despite conservation efforts.
Baert-Hockin said in 2012, she used a total of 333 m3, which cost her $379.33. The flat rate for water usage (up to 600 m3) is $312.
Despite her efforts, she noted she is playing the same amount as a person on the flat rate who would have used 648 m3 of water.
Coun. Ken Grant, who noted he does not support water meters, explained he doesn’t see how the option of lowering rates will entice more people to join the metered program, and added the right thing for council to do is to offer residents the option to opt out of the program and return to a flat water rate if they want to do so.
Ives said he believes water meters will become increasingly popular.
“The conversation tonight is not about meters or no meters, but the rate to charge. I support water meters and I believe in the long term, they will be the flavour of the day,” he explained.
“It’s a balance … to meet conservation goals and make it manageable and palatable for people to use.”
There are about 118 single-family homes on the metered program, along with approximately 100 units in three stratas that subscribe to the water meter program.
The flat rate for water usage (up to 600 m3) is $312 a year.
Don Jacquest, director of finance for the Town, said in his report to offset the possible revenue reduction, the Town could easily reduce the annual contributions to water reserves in the next draft financial plan.
Couns. Tom Grant, Hugh MacKinnon and Barbara Price were not present at the meeting.