LETTER: ‘Actual cost’ fees good, but further reviews also needed

Number of employees needed, time to return contingency fees also a concern.

Re: Municipal services set to recoup costs, Oak Bay News, Feb. 28.

I support moving to an “actual cost” model of charging for residential and business water and storm sewer connections.

On May 25, 2016 I paid Oak Bay the bylaw mandated fee of $3,075 plus contingency fees of $4,950 for archaeologicalstandby, traffic control, depth contingency and engineering consulting, for a total of $8,025.

On June 22, 2016, Oak Bay Public Works exposed a storm water lateral pipe and installed an inspection port at my propertyline, a distance of less than two metres.

The crew of up to seven employees spent less than four hours completing this work, which also involved a municipal dumptruck, a utility van and a municipal backhoe.

The cost to the district had to be significantly less than the “set fee” of $ 3,075 charged.

The maximum number of hours expended by the employees (including preparation time) was 28 hours (seven employees atfour hours each). A simple calculation indicates the employees were priced out $109 per hour, less the cost of fuel and wearand tear on municipal equipment.

There are a couple of concerns here.

1) Flat fee connections unfairly penalize residential and business customers who have simple and inexpensive connections. In effect, such customers are subsidizing others. An “actual cost” model would address this problem.

2) Why does public works need to send out seven employees? One truck driver sat in his truck most of the morning. The backhoe operator brought a chaise lounge, which he sat in when not operating the backhoe. Two other employees spent most of the morning leaning on their shovels. To all appearances, there were too many workers for the job at hand.

3) Nothing of any archaeological interest was found. There was no need for traffic control (I live on a quiet street with littletraffic), there was no need for additional depth, hence I was entitled to be refunded for the entire contingency ($4,950).

After numerous visits to the district office, I was reimbursed 50 days after the work was completed.

I was informed that the lengthy wait for the return of my contingency fees was due to staff holidays. Why should residentshave to wait 50 days for a refund when the public works foreman verifies that there is no need to retain the contingencies on the date that the work is done?

In addition to adopting an “actual cost” model for sewer and water connections, council should include a clause in the bylawlimiting the length of time the district can retain contingencies fees and review why so many employees are sent out onthese jobs.

Sending more employees than necessary inflates costs to customers.

Sandie Menzies

Oak Bay

 

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