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Deep concerns about water/sewer rates

June 28th. 2010

County of Prince Edward
Water and Wastewater Connection
Charges & Rates Ad Hoc Committee
c/o Shire Hall, Picton
Ontario, K0K 2T0

Attn: Bev Campbell, Chair

On behalf of the Consecon and Area Ratepayers Association (CARA) I wish to express my deep concern with the direction the Water and Sanitary Sewer Connection and Rates have taken.

Off the top, I can’t help but wonder, is it a Done Deal? Or, has the participation, input and concerns of the water users from the north section of the County specifically Consecon/Carrying Place carried any weight with the committee?

This committee’s purpose was to liaise with Council and provide comments for Council’s consideration on the fiscal dilemma facing Council in the area of Water and Wastewater Connection Charges and Rates. Based on the information offered at the recent Public Meetings the exercise to date seems tantamount to allowing the students to grade their own papers. Six months on and it appears the committee has simply rubber stamped Watson and Associates recommendations, and Councils wishes.

The chaotic inequities that six distinct stand alone water delivery systems whose water sources, ownership, treatment facilities, infrastructure, maintenance and operating costs add to the task of determining a fair outcome, surely couldn’t have been ignored. It is perplexing as to why the enormity of these differences hasn’t been factored into the decision process thus far.

The term UNIFORM pertaining to water rates has been bandied about for months at various meetings, and for the life of me I’ve been unable to come across a definition that approximates, what to this point has been presented to countywide water users as UNIFORM.  To even suggest uniformity is pretentious.

Funk & Wagnalls defines Uniform as: Being always the same or alike, as in form, appearance, quantity, quality, degree, style, character etc., identical with each other.

Uniformity with respect to delivery of water in Prince Edward County is an impossibility, and therefore it logically follows that uniformity in the billing process is egregious based on the incongruities that exist within the six contradictory delivery systems. As it stands presently, the Rossmore/Fenwood Gardens residents are paying more on their bi-monthly bill than the rest of the county water users. How exactly has uniformity been applied in that situation?

The primary solution to the problem screams out to be heard, yet Watson and Associates, Council, and the Ad Hoc Committee to date collectively give the impression of not being on the same wavelength.

The problem is Picton; Picton is a mess. The current debt load with respect to both water and wastewater  is in Picton, the immediate need for capital to deal with maintenance and upgrading of a water related infrastructure some seventy years old is in Picton, the minimal percentage rate increase for water users also in Picton, water users in Picton were given complimentary water and wastewater hook-up. The solution to the problem is right under your noses, right outside your window. Stop, look and listen; the solution is also Picton. Problem, solution all wrapped up in one tidy little package.
The no-show demonstrated by the Picton and area residents at the Crystal Palace meeting spoke volumes.  Their sense of entitlement is repugnant. They have no qualms with the way this issue is playing out.  The Sustainable Water and Sewer Systems Act impacts on all County residents. Picton is not above the rest of us. Picton needs to get on board if there is to be accountability countywide. In the real world you get what you pay for; in Picton, history has shown you get, and the rest of the county will pay for it.

Eighty-five to ninety percent of the capital expenditure in the County over next eight or so years will be spent on Picton’s water and wastewater systems. Surely this committee hasn’t failed to notice the one-sidedness created when forty percent of water users stretched over five other systems are encumbered with a localized debt load on a system that services the remaining sixty percent.  It would be blind recklessness for this committee to recommend such a flawed decision.

A deaf ear has been turned to the concerns of the north County residents who were the majority participants at the meetings.  So do the right thing, the right way, right now and don’t turn a blind eye to the perils of Picton.  This ‘on the house’ treatment the near 2,200 Picton and area system users have enjoyed must come to an end. Even Mel Campbell the Ad Hoc committee’s Picton user representative at the Public Meeting June 23rd. articulated that ‘it is time to pay the piper’.  Picton’s time to pay has arrived

Face the fear; recommend Council Implement a five to ten year water system levy on the users of the Picton and area system in lieu of the onetime connection charge the rest of us paid. Urge Council to exhibit the same tenacity used in tearing up the contract struck between Quinte West and water users on the Consecon/Carrying Place system when putting this levy into practice. Suggest they make the affected residents aware of their intentions; it is untenable to a ratepayer when one’s local Council governs in secrecy. At the June 10th. meeting in Consecon, Mayor Finnegan stated that the Consecon and Carrying Place customers weren’t paying enough for the upkeep and ultimate replacement of their system, and that had to be fixed. Surely the Mayor isn’t the only person on this committee to have missed the existing shortfall between the Picton and area system’s needs and the capital these users have in reserve?

Secondarily, phasing in connection charges over a five year period benefits no one but the developers. It is ludicrous as well as insulting to existing users, some of whom paid in excess of eight thousand dollars in connection fees to even propose such ridiculously low phase-in charges. Surely the whole notion of a half price hook-up fee to developers who may or may not build in the County does not serve the existing funding shortfall. Connection fees for developers are a cost of doing business, which invariably are passed on to the prospective buyer. Where is the logic, in allowing potential builders and imagined newcomers to the County the advantage of paying less than half the connection fees that some existing residents have paid? Inflation over the past fifteen or so years in and of itself speaks to the absurdity of suggesting this concept. Apply the top end rate immediately; stop the proposed existing user rate increases.

Focus on the capital required immediately; look to where these needs can be met straight away, commit to not ignore the obvious. Refuse to allow Council to ram through one hundred percent plus rate increases. They have assumed your consent with this water concern; don’t tolerate the opening of that door. If you comply with Council’s wishes on this issue you will set in motion a ticking time bomb of astronomical rate increases on all services that will be impossible to defuse.

Bill McMahon
President (CARA)

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion


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