Residents on the north side of the Nechako River are now paying 23.52 per cent more for their water after a rate increase was approved by 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 business could hire a second qualified operator.
The increase will fund the training and certification of this operator and will also provide funds for the future replacement of system components.
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. The BC Water Management Branch says they received a total of five written objections from Northside Water Service customers.
One to object was Prince George resident Pearl Harrison who runs the Omineca Trailer Park on Northside Road.
The Omineca Trailer Park has 36 units which are all owner-occupied. The 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.
“I am very, very upset.
“I will be paying $18,000 a year for the water for a small park … but I can’t put the rent prices up – it’s not fair to my tenants,” said Harrison.
“I’ve got single people and older people in the park – how much more can they take and why did they [Northside Water] get away with it?,” she added.
Wayne Salewski is a Northside resident but says he didn’t send in a written objection.
“As a home owner I knew they would approve it – I had no doubt in my mind so we didn’t respond because we were confident that they were just going to go ahead and do the rate increase anyway,” said Salewski.
“What we have here is a business who says we need a higher rate because we’re small – if they were part of the municipality then they would be able to supply it at a cheaper rate – so I’m not pleased to be paying twice the amount than the rest of the community pays.”
He added that he has concerns with the municipality not being his water supplier.
“I would like that local government oversight – for my water safety, for my water quality and for the cost of my water,” he said.
In a Decision and Order document from the BC Water Management Branch, revenue requirements were outlined as the key reason for the rate increase.
“The current rates are insufficient for the utility to cover its revenue requirements … the utility reported a net loss for 2011 year-end and a rate increase is warranted to cover future expected revenue requirements,” the document stated.
It goes on to state that two certified operators are required to provide 24/7/365 coverage. It mentions the sensitive customers that Northside Water Service has including the hospital and says “the utility … must ensure non-interupted water supply at all times.”
Northside Water Services has been owned and run by the Manwaring family for the last 40 years.
Greg Manwaring has been the only full time operator of the utility for a number of years. The approved rate increase means Greg and his wife Elvira can afford to hire their son Wes as a second operator.
Elvira told the Express in August that Northside Water Services had tried to request that the rate increase be spread over a four-year period but that the ministry would not allow it.
Rick Couroux, Secretary to the Comptroller of Water Rights with the Water Management Branch said he had 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 – a fund for the future replacement of system components.
The rate increase was effective as of July 1, 2011.