City council disagreement over this year’s utility bill hike continues, but five votes were enough to pass it during Monday’s meeting.
Although not happy with an increase that will have the average residential user face a 10.4 per cent increase, Coun. Don Cody said that he accepted it.
However, he did not accept subsequent rate increases of more than eight per cent per year over the subsequent three years -- a sentiment Coun. Lee Atkinson also expressed.
“I do not agree that we give carte blanche to anybody to spend money next year,” Cody said. “That doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. I believe that we should budget each year, individually.”
The city needs a long-term plan when it comes to infrastructure funding, and there’s no plan if it’s not financed, Mayor Greg Dionne countered.
“We all talk about how we need a four-year, five-year, 10-year plan. Well, we finally have a four year plan and now they’re suggesting in the eleventh hour that we go back to a one-year plan,” he said.
By going to a four-year plan, the city will also be able to implement increases on Jan. 1 instead of missing out on the first quarter’s added revenue, Dionne added.
Along with calling the various numbers around the utility rates “arbitrary,” Atkinson brought numerous suggestions to the table.
Utility bills should be based entirely on consumption rates, he said, noting that the fixed water and sewer capital costs that depend on pipe sizes should be eliminated.
We all talk about how we need a four-year, five-year, 10-year plan. Well, we finally have a four year plan and now they’re suggesting in the eleventh hour that we go back to a one-year plan. - Mayor Greg Dionne
“If you’re a big water user, you should be paying the same for a volume of water as a small (user) does and your bill shouldn’t be based on all these other factors that you don’t have control over.”
Atkinson said that he’d also like to see utility bills issued on a monthly basis instead of quarterly, therefore ensuring more people are able to afford to pay them on time.
“We’re penalizing those people on fixed incomes,” he said.
Although Dionne said that he agreed with some of Atkinson’s suggestions, such as the monthly payment plan, he expressed frustration over his not submitting them earlier.
A strategic planning session held in January was the time to do so, he said.
“That’s why we took the full day off work and gathered in this room to discuss them!” he exclaimed.
Finding his inquiries at the time stonewalled by administration, Atkinson said that the day was inadequate.
With tensions rising in the room, Coun. Mark Tweidt, who chaired this portion of the meeting, reminded council about the infrastructure deficit the city is currently facing.
“We have to protect what we have -- we have to look after it,” he said.
In the end, Cody, Atkinson and fellow councillors Tim Scharkowski and Charlene Miller voted against the water services bylaw amendment.