Water and sewer rates in a number of areas of North Cowichan are going up this year.
At the municipality’s council meeting on Feb. 2, council decided to increase the water metered minimum and parcel tax by five per cent in Crofton and Chemainus, and three per cent in the south end.
Sewer parcel tax and user fees in Crofton will rise by three per cent in Chemainus and the south end, and two per cent in Chemainus.
The Maple Bay sewer treatment plant user fee will also increase by three per cent.
At the committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 20, North Cowichan’s finance director Mark Frame said the increases, which are generally pretty much stable every year, are necessary because the municipality needs to accumulate surplus funds to pay for capital projects taking place in the future, and as each water system in North Cowichan is a separate entity, planning and funding capital projects has to be done individually in each area.
Frame said one of the major upcoming projects in Crofton is the replacement of 400 metres of cast iron water main from Adelaide Street to Coronation Street.
“We’ve been receiving a large number of complaints each year from this area largely due to dirty water, broken water mains and plugged water filters that have been installed to deal with water quality,” he said.
“Once that’s completed, the water system there will be in much better shape. We also have a $1 million pipe replacement project on Crofton Road coming up so we need to build up the surplus funds in Crofton. Crofton does currently have a growing accumulated surplus, but the larger projects coming up will eat it up.”
As for Chemainus, North Cowichan plans to replace 850 metres of failing 300 millimetre steel water main on Smiley Road with seismically resistant pipe at a cost of $890,000.
“This is one of two main trunk mains going into town, and an unscheduled failure would cause significant issues in the Chemainus water supply,” Frame said.
Capital projects are planned in the south end as well, including the completion of the water trunk main from Tzouhalem Road to Drinkwater Road, but the south end has a larger population and a bigger surplus to help cover the costs.
Mayor Al Siebring said he thinks it’s urgent to find a way to level the playing field between all three water and sewer services.
“As a policy directive, I’m all about finding ways to integrate all three and we will soon be doing a water rate study, but there are legal obstacles and we need to find ways to clear those up because Crofton is paying more than Chemainus, and both Crofton and Chemainus are paying more than the south end for these services,” he said.