Business rate reduction proposed

There could be an increase in residential water and sewer rates in 2012, due largely to a proposed decrease in commercial rates.

There could be an increase in residential water and sewer rates in 2012, due largely to a proposed decrease in commercial rates.

The request came from Village of Burns Lake Coun. John Illes as council met again last week to continue with their 2012 budget deliberations.

Water, sewer and recreation budgets were on the agenda.

Councillor John Illes suggested that the non metered commercial water rates be brought down to the same rate as residential.

He said this would mean an increase to residential rates during 2012 to cover the commercial rate reduction.

“Businesses pay nearly three times what the residential rate is,” he said.

If the non metered commercial rate was lowered it would create a $58,881 decrease in revenue that the village’s residential water users would have to soak up.

Thirty-two businesses within the village are currently metered.

Councillor Illes said he wants to keep metered commercial rates the same during 2012. “The reduction would just be for all non metered commercial businesses.”

Sheryl Worthing, chief administrative officer said the increase in water rates would also result in an increase in sewer rates.

“Sewer rates are based on a percentage of whatever the water rates are,” she said, adding that sewer rates are based on 145 per cent of water consumption.

Councillor and mayor elect, Luke Strimbold asked, “Is there people [businesses] that should be metered that aren’t? If we are going to reduce the rates, this is something that would need to be considered.”

“The majority of the businesses that should be metered are,” Worthing said.

Local business Purely H2O was mentioned during the discussion with councillors suggesting that it is a local business that should be metered.

“Purely H20 is not metered but they are selling water,” Coun. Quentin Beach said.

Councillor Strimbold said, “Just say Purely H20 is using a lot of water and they are not metered, should we then be lowering their water rate?”

“There should be an avenue to force meters,” Coun. Illes said, adding that just 25 per cent of local businesses are metered.

Worthing replied, We are working on that right now. While Worthing did not reveal what plans the village is working on she did say to Lakes District News, “Staff is reviewing all commercial water use to bring back to council in a report in the new year.”

A motion was made to bring back the provisional budget to include residential increases and commercial decreases, while leaving commercial metered rates the same.

“There are currently 106 businesses who are not metered for municipal water use. At this point we are unsure what the decrease to the average business would be. This will be reviewed at the Dec. 12 budget meeting,” Worthing said.

Other line items included are; $4,750 towards a GPS mapping system and $130,000 for a back up generator for the water system at the village’s high lift water station.

According to Rick Martin, village director of public works, the $130,000 expenditure is long overdue. He said that during a power outage and without a back up generator, the village will loose its water supply.

“During a power outage the village’s water system would totally shut down. We would only have enough water for three quarters of a day with high usage and one and a half days with low usage, then we would be completely out of water. If there is a fire or anything we are done.”

“How often have we run out of water in the past,” asked Coun. Strimbold.

“Only once .. it was during the October 2006 snow event. We got by the problem but the way it was done was a major safety hazard that would not be acceptable today. The generator is the way we have to go eventually anyway,” Martin said.

There is also a back up generator for deep well system budgeted for $40,000 during 2014, however Coun. Illes asked if this could be moved up to the 2012 budget given its importance.

Martin explained that they do have an old generator for the deep well system that works but does need replacing.

“It’s an old generator that can be towed over there if we need it,” he said.

Councillor Illes said, “We have $200,000 in water reserves, couldn’t we move the purchase of the deep well generator up to 2012?”

“I don’t think $200,000 would cover much of an emergency,” Coun. Illes said.

Provisional approval was given towards the capital expenditure portion of the water budget by councillors.

The recreation and Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena budget was again up for discussion. As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Nov. 30, 2011, the same budget was also discussed during a Nov. 21 meeting.

The discussion this time focussed on arena staff wages, specifically the hiring of a recreation programmer.

Listed as a line item in the 2012 budget, the recreation programmer position will cost village taxpayers $46,137 in annual wages.

Worthing said, “The recreation programmer position would be based on an hourly rate and employment and hours will be dependent on programs being offered. The $46,137 includes mandatory employment related cost. The position is strictly program driven, which may be year round or may be part time. The main functions will be assisting in the implementation and on the ground operation of the programs that are developed by the recreation department. Council may choose to remove the funds for the recreation programmer from the budget up until the budget is adopted.”

Worthing went on to say the position will also help bring in more revenue from the continuation of recreation programs. “Logan [Wilson, Village of Burns Lake’s recreation coordinator] isn’t able to run the recreation programs  by himself.”

Carla Fox, village’s deputy director of financial services said Wilson would not have time for anything else if he spent his time focussed on recreation programming and said the village’s revenue would decrease without the programs being run throughout the year.

Worthing later said to Lakes District News, “The recreation department’s proposed programs and events would generate a projected revenue of $48,840. Combined with the $24,000 revenue from arena programs, the total revenue from all programs would be $72,840.”