Georgian Bluffs raising water rates

by Rob Gowan, originally posted on December 21, 2016


Georgian Bluffs is proposing a 10 per cent rate increase in 2017 for those on its municipal water systems.

The proposed increases for the East Linton, Shallow Lake, Pottawatomi and Oxenden/Gateway systems would see an average user pay between $62.81 and $189.90 more per year.

Georgian Bluffs Mayor Al Barfoot said the province wants the municipality to have reserves set up.

“The province would like us to have enough in reserve to replace the system, which is a great thing, but we will be a long time getting there,” said Barfoot. “We are trying to be responsive on this and responsible, knowing you can only put it up so much.”

Barfoot said the frozen pipes Owen Sound experienced in 2015 is an example of why having a strong reserve is so important. The situation ended up costing the city more than $2 million.

“If you get a major breakdown or storm or something and there is a lot of damage to your system, the money has to come from somewhere,” said Barfoot. “The sooner we can get some of the pot built up for them all, then the better off for everybody.”

The township is proposing to increase water rates for the 409 users on the East Linton system by 10 per cent in 2017. The average user on the system paid $628.10 per year in 2016, and the rate change would see that increase to $690.91 in 2017. It is significantly below the rate needed to cover the cost needed to both maintain the system and build up the reserve, which is estimated at $1,231.50 per year.

“If you look at it we would be doubling the rates and council certainly has no appetite to do that,” said Barfoot. “We will get there through time and certainly we are hoping for efficiencies through the operator and that type of thing.”

For the 187 users on the Shallow Lake system, the average cost was $1,490.50 per year. The proposed 10 per cent increase for 2017 would raise the average bill to $1,639.55 per year. The rate needed to cover the township’s costs is $1,978.30.

For the small Pottawatomi system, which includes 25 users, the average cost in 2016 was $1,890.90 per year, and the township is proposing to increase that to $2,080 per year in 2017. The rate needed to cover costs is $3,040.45.

The municipality is currently exploring the option of hooking the Pottawatomi system up to another in the municipality, but that system is a significant distance away.

“We will have to go through an environmental assessment to do that,” said Barfoot. “We have started that process but it will be a lot of work in the future with that one. That is our ultimate goal though.”

On the Oxenden/Gateway system, there are 202 users who paid and average of $903.10 per year in 2016. The proposed rate for 2017 is $996 per year, while the rate needed to cover costs has been calculated at $1,124.20 per year.

Barfoot said the systems do need to be self-sustaining and he believes the rates are competitive with other area municipalities on the majority of their systems.

“We all realize water is an expensive commodity,” said Barfoot. “Especially on the East Linton system, it is one that is fairly inexpensive compared to some of the others, and to ensure you have safe, potable water when turning on the tap.”

The municipality held an open house Wednesday to provide residents with information about next year’s proposed increases. Barfoot said due to the weather, many residents couldn’t make i. He is encouraging residents to contact the municipality at 519-376-2729 if they have questions about their system or the proposed increase.

The rates bylaw is expected to come back to council for approval in January.

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