The lone Nelson business owner on a water meter isn’t pleased about his rates doubling over three years.
Barrie Taylor, owner of the Nelson Car Wash, spoke out against the proposed rate increases at a council meeting last week. Though he’s the only carwash in town, he also runs a laundromat on the premise and said his business will no longer be competitive with the three other laundromats in town if he has to pay more for water.
“I’ll have no choice but to raise the cost of doing laundry if I have to pay more for water,” he said, pointing out that it’s mainly low income people who do their laundry at the carwash.
He asked the City to lower water rates in general, to be more in line with the rates charged in neighbouring communities, and to reduce the increase to metered rates in particular.
But city manager Kevin Cormack said comparing Nelson rates to neighbouring communities is unfair because our city is putting money into infrastructure costs that other communities haven’t begun to address.
“Nelson rates are higher than many communities, but we’re spending $2 million-plus per year on infrastructure and other communities will have to do that eventually,” Cormack said.
The proposed water rate increase for 2013 is six per cent for residential properties and non-metered businesses, while the four commercial/institutional properties with a water meter will see an additional increase of 20 cents per cubic meter of water added on top of that.
Nelson Car Wash is the only private business with a water meter. The other meters are at Selkirk College, Kootenay Lake Hospital and the Regional District of Central Kootenay building.
“I find it highly unfair to be lumped in with these tax payer-funded institutions,” said Taylor, a former city councillor in the mid-1990s.
The carwash had a water meter when Taylor purchased it in the early-70s. Until recently, he assumed that was how every business in town was charged for their water.
In fact, other businesses are charged based on the number of fixtures (sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc.) in the building. But the City hopes to move more businesses onto water meters in the coming years.
“If in two or three years time we do have the commercial and industrial businesses coming onto metered rates, and if we applied the same metered rate we’ve been using, we’d be drastically under charging,” councillor Paula Kiss explained.
She suggested that the City might consider charging Nelson Car Wash a fixture rate until more businesses are on meters.
“If we give you a special metered rate, people will accuse us of subsidizing your business and that’s a position we can’t find ourself in,” Kiss said.
Mayor John Dooley told Taylor he may want to build a well and use untreated water for the carwash, to avoid the increases in water rates over the long term.
“It might be a better investment for you,” he suggested.
But Taylor prefers the soft water that comes through the pipes in Nelson, because it means people can use less detergent to clean their cars and clothes.
Dooley committed to sitting down with Taylor in the New Year to further discuss his concerns and try to come up with a solution.
The third reading of a bylaw to adopt the proposed water rate increases will come to the January 14 regular council meeting.