Nelson water and sewer rates will increase in 2014, but not as much as originally expected.
According to projections in the city’s long-term operating and capital plan for the utilities, water and sewer rates were each expected to increase five per cent next year.
Instead water will go up four per cent and sewer will be three per cent more than the previous year.
The actual amount residents will pay on their utility bill in 2014 is $933.30, an increase of $31.50 ($18.90 for water and $12.60 for sewer). Rates for commercial/industrial properties will increase based on the same percentages.
At Monday’s council meeting, Nelson’s chief financial officer Colin McClure explained the required increase is less than expected due to savings on waterline and sewer replacement costs.
The city was able to keep costs down for the upgrades by creating its own capital crew to do the work, rather than contracting out the replacement work.
The city would have paid around $1,000 per metre of waterline it replaced had the work been done by a contractor. Instead the work is costing an average of $828.
For the sewer upgrades, the projected cost was $525 per metre, but the actual cost came in at an average of $206.
The city is replacing an average of 1,800 metres of waterline and 2,500 metres of sewer line per year with new pipes that are expected to last 85 years.
In 2012 and 2013, water rates increased six per cent per year and sewage rates went up five per cent per year.
“It’s really a good news story that we’ve been able to do these important infrastructure upgrades for less than expected and pass those savings onto the ratepayer,” McClure said.
Council passed the first two readings of a bylaw to adopt the proposed rate increases and has set time aside during the public participation period at its December 16 committee of the whole meeting to hear from residents who have concerns about the change.
Metered water users get a break
A plan to double the pay-per-use rate paid by public institutions and businesses with water metres has been temporarily put on hold.
There are only four Nelson properties currently on water metres — Nelson Car Wash, Selkirk College, Kootenay Lake Hospital and the Regional District of Central Kootenay building.
Last year council increased water rates for those users by 20 cents per cubic metre on top of the percentage increase seen by all other water users.
The plan was to do the same for the next two years so that by 2015 the metred rate would be twice as much as it was in 2012.
At the time, city staff argued the metered rate was disproportionately low when compared to the amount paid by non-metered commercial/industrial users whose rates are determined by the number of fixtures (sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc.) in the building.
The city had planned to switch over more businesses to water metres this year, to find out the exact amount of water used and determine if the formula for determining water rates is fair. But that project has been pushed back to 2014.
At a meeting Monday, council agreed that until that data on water use is available, they couldn’t justify further increases to the metered rates, on top of the city-wide increase.
As a result, the metered rate will only increase four per cent in 2013.
The 20 cent increase on the metered rate would have added $20,000 to the city’s water utility budget.