Driven by rising service and infrastructure costs, Comox council approved a recommendation for an incremental increase for 2014 in Town sewer and garbage fees, while continuing the discussion on water rates.
At Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting, council forwarded the bylaws to next week’s council meeting, approving a $27 increase (to $321) for flat-rate sewer fee and a $21 increase for single-family homes and duplexes for garbage (with yard waste/organics service).
Mayor Paul Ives said the cost increase — particularly sewer — is related to the system capacity and the growth outside the community, not within the Town of Comox.
“The sewer service is shared with Courtenay,” he noted. “We share in the system and the system is 30 years old. The reserves aren’t really there.”
A staff report suggested no changes to flat-rate residential water fees, but for metered customers, suggested water rates rise $0.03/m3 to $0.96.
Prior to the rate discussion, Comox resident Natasha 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, 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 333m3, which cost her $379.33. The flat rate for water usage (up to 600m3) is $312.
Despite her efforts, she noted she is playing the same amount as a person on the flat rate who would have used 648m3 of water.
Ives, who noted he has also signed on to the meter program, said he is concerned there is not a lot of incentive to sign onto the program.
“It doesn’t take a lot (for the water) to add up. Overall in the year, we’ve probably saved less than $10.”
He suggested reducing the monthly minimum charge of $17.50 down to $15 or more.
There are about 118 single-family homes on the metered program, along with approximately 100 units in three stratas, confirmed Don Jacquest, the Town’s director of finance.
Ives added despite the numbers, the program has been successful in reducing overall consumption and finding leaks in the system.
Coun. Ken Grant said the numbers tell him the program is not working, and suggested people who have signed up for the meter program should have the option to opt out.
Coun. Patti Fletcher suggested people on the water meter program “are paying more than their fair cost for water,” and noted while she is in favour of water meters, the program isn’t fair.
She suggested a motion to refer the report back to staff for further examination and options, which was approved.
As for Baert-Hockin, Coun. Maureen Swift said she presented a reasonable case, and in the interest of fairness, the Town should allow people to opt out of the program.
A motion to refer until after the staff report is presented was approved.
Couns. Barbara Price and Tom Grant were absent.