Increase to pay for critical repairs to old pipes
Sudburians are waking up to a major watermain break on The Kingsway, the morning after city council approved a hike in water rates aimed at dealing with such occurrences, which are becoming more common.
The price of water services is going up by 4.6 per cent next year, or an average of about $48 per household in Greater Sudbury, as the city tries to gain ground on its $20 million annual infrastructure deficit in maintaining its aging underground pipes.
That will push total water and wastewater bill to $1,097 compared to 2013. The hike would have been 3.6 per cent, but members of the city's finance committee agreed to add an extra one per cent to try and narrow the infrastructure gap. Lorella Hayes, the city's chief financial officers, told councillors the city spends $33 million a year, when they should be spending $53 million. That means the city's aging underground pipes break more frequently and as the years pass, the breaks are more serious.
Just last month, a watermain break left residents in Naughton and Whitefish without water. Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau, whose ward includes both communities, said it was a wakeup call for the whole city.
"We can do without cable TV, but we can't do without water," Barbeau said Tuesday. "Every year we delay this, we're creating additional risks."
But Mayor Marianne Matichuk said with the costs of the $60 million biosolids plant already adding 2.3 per cent to the hike, taxpayers can't afford more. And Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli said now wasn't the time to increase the levy, with hydro rates expected to soar.
"We have to keep the (increase) to the lowest level we can," Caldarelli said.
But Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said delaying the hikes is what caused the problem in the first place. By putting it off even further, the repairs will become more costly and future generations will have to pay even more.
"I don't think we'd be serving residents very well," Landry-Altmann said. ìThis is an investment in the future.î
That argument won the day, and the increase was approved easily. According to the city, the 4.6 per cent increase breaks down this way:
Maintaining Water/wastewater services -- 0.4%
Increased capital investments -- 1.9%
Biosolids Management Facility -- 2.3%
The water/wastewater budget funds the city's 68 lift stations, nine wastewater treatment plants, six well systems, four wastewater lagoons, and two water treatment plants.
The rest of the city budget is expected to be finalized at tonight's meeting, starting at 4 p.m. at Tom Davies Square. The current rate hike is estimated at 2.9 per cent, but councillors will decide among a host of budget options whether to add or take away from that amount.
As for the watermain break on The Kingsway, it will reduce traffic to one lane in both directions until this afternoon, according to a news release from the city.