By J.W. Schnarr
Vauxhall taxpayers will continue to subsidize water service in the town for the time being.
During their regular meeting on June 1, council voted to pass the original version of the Water and Sewer Bylaw to ensure the town was legally covered by the bylaw. In previous council meetings, there had been discussion over issues with the rates being charged for water in town, as the utility has been operated at a considerable loss.
“We have to protect ourselves by having a bylaw in place,” said Plumtree.
Chief Administrative Officer Cris Burns explained the town needs a bylaw in place, and while previous council discussions involved changing the way water is billed, the previous rates are on the bylaw in order to pass it in a timely manner.
“We put the same number in that we had before so we can get the bylaw out,” he said. “We can revisit that number.”
“We basically have to have a bylaw and place and we currently don’t,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree. “So we decided we’d go with the old rates and if council wants to change it, we’ll have time to discuss it and research it, then at a later time we can always do that.”
“The rates are pretty good where they are,” said Coun. Martin Kondor. “We haven’t had a problem with them.”
But Phillips disagreed, pointing to the fact the water utility is currently operating at a loss and must be subsidized by the town.
“The only issue is that $1.84 by the commission for every bit of water we purchase, and our rates are considerably below that, so we’re operating at a loss,” he said. “That’s not necessarily unacceptable, as long as we recognize that is the reality.”
The current bylaw includes a distribution fee of $25 for water service up to one inch and a cost per cubic metre of $1.00 for the first 20 cubic metres and $1.32 for every cubic metre above 20.
Burns said it would be easier to adjust the bylaw in its current form if adjustments were made to the billing system the water commission uses.
Phillips said he has asked the commission to investigate whether a new fee system that covers the cost of producing water might be an acceptable option.
“We just need to recognize that with the rates we just passed, we’re operating at a considerable loss for water.”