Residents on the north side of the Nechako river may see water rate increases of 23.52 per cent this year pending approval from the BC Water Management Branch.
An application was made by Northside Water Services in January this year to increase monthly user fees primarily so that the private business could hire a second qualified operator.
The proposed increase would fund the training and certification of a second operator and would also provide funds for the future replacement of system components.
The application has passed the preliminary review stage and effected residents were sent a notice in the post last month informing them of the application. If approved the increase will take effect from the beginning of July 2011.
Residents had a window of 30 days to submit any objections, complaints or questions to the Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights about the application. The deadline for submissions was August 8.
Pearl Harrison, who runs the Omineca Mobile Home Park on Northside Road, says she isn’t happy at all with the proposed increase.
“Well I can’t afford it – it’s just too much.
“I’m being held at ransom as it is,” she said.
The Omineca Mobile Home Park has 36 units which are all owner-occupied. The proposed percentage increase for mobile homes and apartments will increase water rates from $34 per month to $42 per month. At the moment, Harrison charges occupants a total of $240 per month for water, sewer, garbage pick up and snow removal.
“My tenants can’t afford it – I’ve got a lot of seniors in the park and they’re on limited incomes and I try to be a fair landlord,” she said.
In a letter to the BC Water Management Branch, Harrison stated that her current rates are some of the highest in town.
“If my water payments were the same as those mobile home parks served by the village my monthly rental rates would be the same i.e. $215 to $225 per month,” the letter stated.
She added that the 2011 allowable rent increase is 3.2 per cent.
Steve Little, another resident on the north side of the river said he has also sent a letter to the Water Management Branch to object to the proposed increase.
“I’m not too impressed with it – I’ve sent a letter off to the commissioner,” said Little.
“I want someone to justify the costs and so far no one’s done that.
“We’re being charged before they have hired someone and this is about our tenth water increase since I’ve been over here – why does it cost double than the downtown rates?” he said.
Northside Water Services has been owned and run by the Manwaring family for the last 40 years.
At the moment Greg Manwaring is the only full time operator of the utility. Greg’s wife Elvira says they would like to hire their son Wes as the second full-time operator. She says Wes has already been helping to operate the business for the last couple of years.
“In the last couple of years we have paid out of our own pocket for that,” she said.
She added that new rules and regulations coming down from the government means that their son has to become certified.
“The letter that was sent to each and every one of our customers mentioned the reasons why we were doing the increase … it was because of all these certifications.
“It used to be you just went over there and looked at the system and do the fixing that you needed to do, but in the last six or seven years all that has changed,” she said.
“Both Greg and I realized too we are getting older and just for one person to be running a utility is just ridiculous … you need down time and you need help when you’re working in the ditches and whatever else.
“Water is just becoming more expensive to operate,” she added.
The increased rate, if approved, will also provide extra funds for a replacement reserve fund for the future replacement of components.
“12 per cent of our gross revenue goes into the replacement reserve fund,” said Elvira.
Northside Water Services say that in their initial application they requested that the payment increase be introduced over a four year period to make it easier on their customers but that the Water Management Branch said this was not possible.
“We actually didn’t want to do the increase all in one year we had asked the ministry to do it over a four year period and for whatever reason they said no they wouldn’t allow it this time,” said Elvira.
Rick Couroux, Secretary to the Comptroller of Water Rights with the Water Management Branch said he has been informed by a financial advisor at the branch that rates needed to go up immediately in order to have enough money going into the replacement reserve fund.
He added that to date, the branch have received four formal letters from residents about the proposed increase.
“If anyone has raised any significant questions or concerns in these letters, we will have the utility address those,” said Couroux.
He added that the final decision should be made within a month.