As published in The Erin Advocate
Erin is requesting bids from consultants to conduct a 10-year Water Rates Study and Financial Plan that will ensure “sustainable funding” for the drinking water systems in Hillsburgh and Erin village.
Proposals are due next week, and the newly elected Town council is scheduled to award the contract at its first meeting on December 2. The process, which is required now that the term of the previous study is complete, will include a public meeting in March and council approval in April. Water rate increases would take effect in 2016.
Erin water rates had been going up by 20% per year since 2011 to pay for upgrades to the system, but the planned increase for 2015 is 5%. Users are now paying $4.08 per cubic metre of water, which is high compared to many other municipalities, partly due to the low number of customers.
The study consultant will be expected to recommend water rates that will ensure financial stability for the long term – including revenue to cover the full life-cycle cost of infrastructure – but also a plan to manage rate increases “in a manner that will minimize or avoid ‘rate shock’ to our consumers”.
The consultant will also provide a summary of rate structures currently in place within Wellington County and neighboring municipalities. The full Request for Proposal is available at www.erin.ca.
The Servicing and Settlement Master Plan has recommended that private wells be shut down in urban areas – 110 in Erin village and 230 in Hillsburgh. Even with no new housing growth, the SSMP recommends improvements to wells, and with 500 new homes, the cost to bring the water system up to ideal standards could be $6.7 million.
The new study will satisfy the licensing requirements of Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act. Erin operates 33,500 meters of watermains, with 1,300 connections supplying water to about 3,300 residents plus various businesses and industrial locations. The Town’s new Asset Management Plan (AMP) includes an asset replacement cost valuation of approximately $33.3 million for water infrastructure.
Ontario law now imposes personal liability on Town Councillors to take all proper steps to guard the safety of drinking water.