Last year, Union Bay opened its new water treatment plant.
Now, the Union Board Improvement District (UBID) board that is overseeing water service in the community, at least for a while longer, is having to pass on higher costs to local ratepayers.
Union Bay Improvement District board chair Ian Munro said the move came as no surprise. The new plant is being financed through borrowing, which in turn is being passed on to local ratepayers through parcel taxes. In terms of operations, the facility requires more chemicals than the old one, which used chlorine. As well, there are higher operating costs from more staff and more training for them to meet higher levels of certification. Considering these factors, UBID needed to raise more revenue.
“It’s a substantial increase…. It’s largely driven by the new plant,” Munro said. “It’s a much more robust plant, and it requires more staffing.”
As well, the staff went through a unionization process last year, he added, which also played a role in the hike.
The board supported a motion for the basic metered rate to go up from $90 bi-monthly up to $108. The amount includes water service for the first 20 cubic metres. Beyond that, rates for use will also go up. From 21 to 50 cubic metres, the rate goes from $1.11 per cubic metre to $1.40; from 51 to 75 cubic metres, it goes from $1.51 to $1.90; from 76 cubic metres to 100, it goes from $2 up to $2.50; and from 101 cubic metres and beyond, it goes from $3 up to $3.75. The bylaw for the rates was passed in December in order to take effect for the beginning of 2021.
There are some broader infrastructure questions, such as leaksfor the community distribution system.
“We have aging pipes, and there’s been some failures lately,” Munro said. “When you have failure and water leaks, that affects costs.”
As well, one of the practices has been offering leak allowances for local users for their property’s water lines, though the board has rescinded this because of a growing number of requests.
‘We needed to put the onus on individual landowners to take care of their own infrastructure versus having all landowners subsidize those who have substandard infrastructure,” Munro said.
In response, one of the main items on the agenda for the UBID board and staff in the coming months will be to come up with a five-year plan for the system, which can then be passed on to the Comox Valley Regional District in just over two months.
“Our administration is looking at that right now,” he said.
Last fall, a majority of voters in Union Bay opted to roll the services UBID administers — water, fire protection and streetlights — over to the regional district. This will happen on July 1. In the meantime, the board will be working on the transition with its CVRD partners.
UBID will also be holding its annual general meeting on April 29, one week later than originally planned. As Munro said, this will give extra time to finalize financial statements for the meeting.
Ordinarily, people would be voting on filling out two of the five positions for the board. One has been left open in recent months, while another trustee’s term is expiring. With the service being passed on to the CVRD though, Munro said the provincial government has responded with an order in council that will allow the UBID board to operate with only three trustees in its final months, leading up to the handover after June 30.