PRITCHARD — Twenty-three residents attended a meeting in the Pritchard Community Hall on Monday night (Nov. 21, 2016) to hear about upcoming changes to utility rates in the region.
Three staff members — finance director Doug Rae, utilities manager Arden Bolton, and chief administrative officer Sukh Gill — and I as Electoral Area P director were there on behalf of the TNRD.
In point form, here are some of the highlights as I took notes on them:
What is the overall impact of the changes to Pritchard utilities users?
Parcel taxes go up, sewer tolls go down, water tolls go up. Overall, the difference is roughly a $7 per month increase starting next year. Water rates will increase slightly over the next five years.
Why are the charges going up?
A combination of inflation and a decision to average direct labour costs among utilities. The result is that rates at some of the TNRD’s utilities will increase; others will decrease.
The TNRD has obviously made up its mind, so isn’t this meeting just a waste of time?
I opposed the process chosen by the TNRD, arguing that people should be consulted before the final decision was made. Most board directors felt the changes were necessary and have to be implemented regardless to keep the systems financially viable. The purpose of the meetings that are being held all over region is to explain the reasons for the changes and their impact in each community served by utilities. The final bylaw will come before the board by the end of the year.
Why is the quality of water so poor?
You are getting what comes out of the river. The system has no filtration, which would be in the hundreds of thousands and probably millions of dollars. Currently it’s unaffordable for communities with water systems. Eventually filtration will likely be required by health authorities, and there needs to be a way of helping communities pay for it. Fortunately, the cost of membrane filtration is dropping.
Couldn’t we use bottled-water stations, UV, point-of-entry filtration or a groundwater source? Maybe solar panels to reduce Hydro bills?
All of these alternatives or supplemental sources are possibilities but all have pros and cons. Some are only partial solutions and others would have a steep up-front cost. Funding is in place to install UV at the pump house.
Will the Osprey development make a difference to our utility rates?
As more homes are connected to the systems, the cost per home should come down. Another positive impact on rates will be the retirement of a debt in a couple of years. Those who didn’t commute their share of the original borrowing and have been paying into it over time will see their cost reduced when the debt is paid off.
Some people didn’t know about the meeting or heard about it too late. As well, we sometimes don’t hear about water quality advisories or boil-water orders until they’re over.
The TNRD’s phone-out list may not be up to date if people have moved out of or into the community. Please call the TNRD and ask to be put on the list if you suspect you aren’t on it. After the meeting, several suggestions were made on how to use the community Facebook page to publish advisories, which should help. As well, I gratefully accepted an invitation to provide regular reports in the community newsletter.