Water bill going up



Water & sewage average increase $13.42 per month

By David Judd

YOU will pay an average $13.42 more per month for municipal water and sewer service next year.
The average residential bill will total $93.41 a month in 2020, up 16.8 per cent from $79.99 this year and in 2018.
It is by far the largest increase for town water and sewer bills in years.
“This is absolutely terrible,” Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin said in an interview.
“It’s very alarming for council and the people of Norfolk.”
Next year Norfolk County expects to collect $20.9 million for water and sewer service, up $3 million from $17.9 million this year.
Two-thirds of the increased spending will pay for higher costs at the county’s sewage treatment plants.
Water and sewer bills are forecast to increase a further 7.3 per cent in 2021 and 6.7 per cent in 2022.
Why the big increases?
Until recently, county council was left in the dark about expensive upgrades needed at water and sewage treatment plants, especially in Simcoe and Port Dover, Coun. Martin said.
For 2019, council couldn’t plan or budget for major upgrades because council didn’t know about them, Coun. Martin said.
Which is why council gave a zero increase for water and sewer rates for 2019.
And why for 2020, now aware of work that needs to be done, council increased rates by 16.8 per cent.
The big increase is “pretty brutal for councillors new to the job,” Coun. Martin said.
“This must not happen again.”
Major issues have come to light, Mayor Kristal Chopp told council last Tuesday.
Norfolk plans to spend $70 million for upgrades this year.
Of this amount, Simcoe’s water and sewage treatment plants need work estimated at more than $35 million.
And Port Dover facilities are in line for $23 million in upgrades.
That’s not counting an estimated $18 million to bring Haldimand water to Port Dover, a project which is under study.
Until now, Norfolk has underestimated work needed at the Simcoe wastewater treatment plant, said Jason Godby, interim public works general manager.
Much of the plant uses 1950s technology. And the Ontario government has ordered upgrades.
Norfolk County has not had resources to forecast long-term projects accurately, said Jason Burgess, interim general manager of corporate services.
The county has a little bit been flying by the seat of its pants, he said.
Norfolk is working on an asset management plan, which should minimize problems with forecasts, Mr. Burgess said.
In January council approved a zero increase in rates for water and sewer service in 2019.
At the time, Mayor Chopp said customers should be given a break.
But council didn’t have information about the need to upgrade facilities, Mayor Chopp said last Tuesday.
The goal is to return to normal increases each year, Coun. Martin told The Maple Leaf.
Council has clearly articulated its expectations to staff, she said.
“The expectations should carry a lot of weight because they are the expectations of every taxpayer in Norfolk County,” she said.
Council must be kept aware of major repairs and upgrades, Coun. Martin said.
Council is making a change in direction, she said.
“I would never like to leave the county in this financial position.”
For 2020, Norfolk will charge 9.3 per cent more for municipal water to truck to cisterns at businesses, homes and cottages.
The county will charge 23 per cent more to treat waste trucked from holding tanks and septic systems.
Staff will review rates to treat trucked waste next year.


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