CORNWALL, Ontario – At a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 7, Cornwall City Council passed a 1.51 per cent increase to the water/ waste water budgets for 2021. The increase means that an average residential property will pay around $12 more in 2021.
The Water/ Waste Water Management Plan had called for an increase of four per cent this year, but Chief Financial Officer Tracey Bailey recommended a 1.51 per cent increase to make things easier on residents.
“This is a COVID budget,” she explained.
Some of the money in the 2021 Water/ Waste Water budget will go towards addressing the backlog of old watermains and pipes in the municipality.
Cornwall has a $41.2 million backlog in watermains that need to be relined, $6.8 million in pipes, and $1.2 million in building maintenance and equipment. The city will be spending $9.2 million to address that backlog in 2021.
One point of contention was around water meters. Cornwall City Council had received a presentation about water meters earlier in the year, and while they have yet to be approved for implementation, City administration expressed an interest in moving in that direction.
“What meters will do it will allow us to equitably charge the users for the water they consume,” said Bill de Wit, the City’s General Manager of Municipal Works and Infrastructure.
de Wit commented that Cornwall was the only city of its size in the country not to have water meters.
Councillor Claude McIntosh was skeptical of the financial implications of water meters.
“We are in the business of selling water,” McIntosh stated, pointing out that if water meters allowed residents to conserve more water, it would lead to a reduction in revenue, revenue the city depended on to maintain the water and waste water systems.
de Wit stated that he believed that any revenue deficit would be made up with increased bills for the commercial sector.
The average resident pays more for their water than a resident in Ottawa, but the average commercial business in Cornwall has the second lowest rate out of 18 comparators in the province.
“There are a number of businesses out there that are using water or wasting water because their toilets are running or whatever, and that is going to the water treatment plant to be treated unnecessarily,” de Wit said. “They will see their water costs increase because they are paying for the water they are leaking away.”
Overall, councillors seemed happy with the budget, passing it unanimously.
“Typically when I’m looking at a budget, I’m looking for where we can find savings and get to a zero per cent increase,” said Councillor Eric Bergeron. “I think this is a very good budget and very well done.”