"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday 26 April 2011

About Water Rates

Last night, my  mind was running over the issue of  water rate  increases  The inclusion of $49.32 for residential storm sewer on the bill came back to haunt and  infuriate.

Over the years it has been non- identified as miscellaneous on the bill. Out of Council, I challenged it. What right does the municipality have to collect a fee on the water and sewer bill and not identify  the service?

For all we know we  could be paying for a night out for the boys. How dare they charge for something and not say what?

Finally, it was identified as an amount was for managing storm water.

So ....what does storm water have to do with  water  consumption,  used and spilled out to sanitary  sewers?

We don't have storm water ponds in my neighbourhood. Why are we paying for them?

Well....it's about re-habilitating Lake Simcoe.

What does that  have to do with servicing my home with water and sewers, which is the purpose of water meters,water rates, and  the principle of charging consumers for water they consume and the bill I receive every quarter?

No answer was ever provided to that.

As long as the Council supported the charge  no logic needed to be  provided.

Turning it over in my mind again last night,still another question occurred to me. We have a  number of homes in Aurora, serviced by private wells and septic tanks. Do they receive a bill for managing storm water ponds? Are they contributing to re-habilitation of Lake Simcoe.

I was up early this morning. The  new water rate is on the agenda to be approved to-night. It went through general committee again last week. A report was submitted which finally acknowledged that an estimated 12% water loss is not water loss at all. It is  non-metered  water used by town departments, like parks irrigation and street cleaning and such. The estimate was increased last year from 8% to 12% and again by 1% this year and folded into the  rate we pay for water we consume in our homes instead of charged to  tax supported services provided by various town departments.

Last year, I requested proof of water loss. Instead  non-metered uses  have been  identified. Which was my contention all along. 

This morning I wanted the answer to  a new  question. Do homes  that  do not receive water  and sewer bills get charged  $49,32 a year for storm water management?

The clock turned to 8.38 a.m. Pamphlet in  hand  I called the town.

Aurora   You're in  Good Company.   Understanding And Managing Your Water Bill.  After a little homily about how precious a resource water is, the pamphlet displays a phone number to make billing inquires.

A cheerful voice answered.My question was  asked. I could hear it, on the tip of a tongue  touching the roof of the mouth was the answer.

Then she said. I will put you through to the deputy treasurer to answer that question.

If was eight-forty eight a.m. He did not pick up his phone. I pressed zero. Got the answering machine of the previous speaker. Pressed zero again. Got someone who could not answer but offered to forward my question to the Director.

From the last term, instructions are, only Directors are permitted to  answer Councillors' questions.

It is 9.23a.m.  no call received yet.

I'm betting  people who live on estate lots and service their own homes with water and septic tanks are not contributing to the rehabilitation of Lake Simcoe like the rest of us.

Only  urban-dwellers  metered  for water  consumption ,charged for water they do not consume are paying for the re-habilitation of Lake Simcoe.

Still another charge has been shifted  to our shoulders this year. Three subdivisions in the east are serviced with local  sewage pumping stations.  The homes could not have been serviced without the stations. A separate charge for maintenance and operation was legally established at the time  subdivision site plans were agreed and signed.

This year, the Director of Environmental and Infrastructure has decided the agreements are "arcane".

Extra cost for servicing those particular homes should be shared amongst the rest of us. The subdivisions are between ten and fifteen years old.

That too  appears to be acceptable to the rest of Council.

D'you know, when I was a new Councillor.I challenged everything I didn't understand. Which was mostly everything.We have a different breed of new councillors now. Apparently,  they know everything they need to know to  accept direction without question.

Which is why I understand homeowners in Aurora are not getting a fair shake and they don't.

It's 9.41am. I still don't have the answer about the charge for rehabilitating Lake Simcoe on homes that do not receive water and sewer rate bills from the town.

Well I ask you, how could they explain it?

So, it's past ten. I have received the answer. Properties with private wells and septic tanks do not pay the residential storm sewer rate. They do not have stormsewers. Storm drainage is by way of ditches and culverts.

As is my subdivision and many other neighbourhoods in town. Still we pay for storm water management which are ponds in newer subdivisions. The purpose of which is  rehabilitation on Lake Simcoe.

Not a damn thing to do with how much water we use or sewage we produce. But its a surcharge on the water bill anyway.But only for urban residents.

Now understand this. Staff recommend to Council how best to  recover expenditures for water services. If the increases are not reflected in water rates . They must be reflected in tax rates.

If they are reflected in tax rates, they are shared equally across the municipality.

If they are reflected in water rates, they are not.

When  Council adopts staff recommendations, Council is the body responsible for imposing  water rate increases.Council is responsible for deliberately creating inequity among taxpayers.

I have been unable to discern any  concern on the part of this council for the 24% increase in water rates imposed on some ratepayers but not on others  in the past  two years.

That is profoundly disappointing.

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