Utility charges going down the drain
Despite the fact that there is only forecast to be a $40,000 surplus in the water utility at the end of 2013, Penticton city council voted to spend $1.1 million of the $3.6 million we received from the West Bench as part of their water services contract.
This council has been different in many respects including their zero rate increases in taxation. While this is a laudable achievement in the present uncertain economic times, it should be noticed that despite the general erosion of reserves that there have been significant increases in fees ranging from dog licences to water rates and electricity fees as well.
Many people are unhappy with the increases in user fees, however, the upside is that user fees are a fairer system of use of services than a hike in Penticton property taxation. Remember we also supply West Bench with water now.
Both Councillors Vassilaki and Konanz opposed the $1.2 million upgrade for sidewalks, trees, lighting, etc. in the 200 blocks of Martin, Winnipeg and Westminster fronting Landmark Cinemas.
According to Coun. Vassilaki, little will change except a few trees and benches. Vassilaki’s alternate proposal to use $1 million in surplus funds to upgrade water and sewer lines downtown was rejected.
Vassilaki said many of the existing water lines near downtown are too small to provide enough water for adequate fire protection for any new higher density developments, and we should be doing a major water and sewer upgrade such as last year’s Ellis Street project every year.
In conversation with Mitch Moroziuk, the director of operations, I was told depending on soil conditions, sewers can last up to 100 years and the average replacement for Penticton is 55 years.
My leaking sewer was replaced at 67 years. More leaking sewers are being replaced this year.
I sent Mr. Moroziuk a questionnaire on leaking sewers which included the following two questions:
If averages are done on a whole city basis then newer construction or newer areas could dramatically skew the results and would not present a true figure of actual age of individual sewers and water lines and problem areas. For example, what is the age of the sewer and water lines in the older parts of the city, downtown business and downtown residential area?
What budgetary plans have been put in place to ensure these lines are replaced before they collapse and how many tax dollars are in reserve to ensure necessary work is done?
I have not received a reply.