Grand Forks’ city council gave three readings for two bylaws (1913 and 1914) that would increase user collection fees for water and sewer rates by four per cent.
If passed at March 14’s council meeting, it would take effect for the current billing cycle.
The city said that residential properties will see a bi-monthly (every two months) fixed charge and capital charge of $37.25 for water and a variable water charge of $13.90 (per user).
For sewer rates for residences, there will be a fixed charge and capital charge of $40 and a bi-monthly variable charge of $12.70.
Metered multi-family apartments will see a fixed charge and capital charge of $20.50 per unit for water and $31.25 for sewer every two months.
Commercial office properties will see a bi-monthly fixed charge and capital charge of $18.50 for water and $34.25 for sewer.
Large industrial properties, commercial laundry and car wash properties, hotels restaurants and malls, schools and recreation facilities and other commercial properties will all see bi-monthly fixed and capital charges of $51 for water and $56.25 for sewer.
Buildings that are not connected to a water system but are on a lot where service is available will see a bi-monthly fixed charge and capital charge of $13.50 for water and $31.25 for sewer rates.
A customer charge of $7 (water) and $10.50 (sewer) will also be charged to all of the above every two months.
“There are two factors to (the increases),” explained Mayor Brian Taylor.
“One is the general increase in expenses of everything from labour to gas and all of that and the other is planning for the future in terms of beginning to place some funds into the proper reserve funds for future use, in terms of planning.”
Taylor said that the city is not using revenue from the increased rates to pay for water meters and said that the metering was an entirely separate matter.
“This is the operational cost we’re having difficulty controlling with the old system that we have and with the repairs and things that need to be done, that’s got to be done out of the regular budget,” Taylor said.
Tax and rate increases are rarely popular and there could be some negative reaction to the announced hikes.
Taylor understands this but he said the city must look long-term.
“I think we’ve kept our costs under control relative to other municipalities and other services. It’s always unfortunate when costs go up and we remain sensitive to the retirement community and people on fixed incomes but we also have to operate a healthy system so it is sustainable over an extended period of time,” he said.
Coun. Gene Robert said that the increases are affecting the cost of living in Grand Forks.
“The concerns I have about it are, once again, we’re challenging the ability to afford to live in our community,” Robert said.
“With steady increases in electrical – and they’re a minimum of 10 to 15 per cent this year alone on the user part – and now water and sewer and who knows about the impending garbage rates.”
Robert said it is something that concerns him and said that the people that have talked to him say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford to live in Grand Forks.
The bylaws are amendments to Bylaw 1500, which provides for the regulation and use of sanitary sewer system and sets rates and charges for the connection and use of the system.