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Courtenay council gives first approval to water, sewer rate rise

COURTENAY, B.C- Residents of Courtenay may see a rise in their water bills in 2018.

Courtenay city council was presented with the 2018 municipal water and sewer budgets on Monday evening, both of which contained increases to user fees and frontage fees.

There were multiple reasons behind the rise, such as increasing costs of operation and the need to maintain reserves to maintain the system, but one of the most significant factors was an increase to the bulk water rate of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) which was said to represent more than 60 per cent of the systems annual operating costs.

The pair of cost increases were listed as a 10 per cent user fee increase for the water fund, as well as a 25 per cent increase to frontage fees for capital needs in the same fund. The sewer fund also saw a 10 per cent user fee increase, with no change in frontage fees.

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According to the council agenda, a single family residence with an average frontage of 21.83 metres will see a combined annual increase of $67.85 in water costs. For sewer costs, user fees are increasing from $294.70 to $324.17, with the frontage fee remaining constant at $10.24 per metre.

While there was lengthy discussion around the council table on the item, the pair of raises were passed through first reading. According to Courtenay mayor Larry Jangula, he agreed to the move, reluctantly.

“It is one of our needs, and I talk a lot about separating our needs from wants,” said Jangula.

“I am very, very concerned about these increases, which will be, in a five year period, about a 50 per cent increase, compounded with all of the other increases that are coming down the tube.”

He indicated he would be looking to cut funding in other areas of the municipal budget to make up for the rising costs.

“It causes me a lot of grief,” said Jangula.

“My comment to my council was that I would vote begrudgingly for these increases, but we have to find ways to cut money in other departments to offset that.”

He also took issue with recent announcements made by the CVRD about their ongoing work to upgrade the valley’s water treatment system, expressing doubts about their funding.

“The regional district has released a nice, glossy handout that’s going from door to door,” said Jangula.

“It basically talks about how we’re going to fund the new water treatment, and basically looks as though there is already $55 million in their grants. Those grants are not assured, there is no check in the mail.”

Councillor Bob Wells, who also chairs the CVRD’s Water Committee, disagreed with Jangula when it came the topic of grants.

“When it comes to water, I think everybody knows that right now we have a lot in front of us,” said Wells.

“I think that we’re really well positioned to get some grant funding for the larger water filtration project, but when it comes to in the municipality of Courtenay, we have to have all our ducks in a row. I think people generally understand that water is an unbelievable critical service that we provide, and that we’re doing it at a level that basically is second to none in the province of British Columbia.”

Prior to the pair of rises being made final, residents of Courtenay will be consulted by the municipal government. While an online survey was discussed during Monday’s meeting, Wells also had a suggestion for anyone looking to get in touch directly.

“Anybody in Courtenay, if you want to talk to any of the elected representatives, you can get our contact information on the website,” said Wells.

“Same with the regional district.”

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