Money down the drain

on .

City looking for rural residents to pay for unused services

Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

The city wants to collect money from property owners who don’t have water meters and contribute nothing to maintaining stormwater infrastructure.

They are largely rural properties with private water and septic systems, so they don’t receive water bills.

The problem is, the city’s only source of funding for water and sewer work is water bill revenue. If there isn’t enough money, the city borrows it.

More than 45,000 properties across the city don’t have water meters. That means 45,000 property owners don’t pay for stormwater infrastructure such as drains, sewers or ditches.

A water rate review strategy, adopted by council’s environment committee Tuesday, will eventually suggest ways to make the stormwater costs fair for all property owners.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who chairs council’s rural affairs committee, said he’ll be watching closely how the city determines how much money residents without water meters should pay for stormwater The environment committee heard there are about 300 properties in the downtown ward with no water meters. Something like a concrete surface parking lot, however, would affect the stormwater sewer system.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said it’s “shocking” how many surface parking lots there are in her ward. McKenney, like some predecessors who have represented central wards, continued the tradition of calling for more permeable ground surfaces to protect the stormwater system.

The environment committee gave staff marching orders to come up with a new water and sewer rate structure, which could be in place by 2017.

College Coun. Rick Chiarelli was blunt about why the city needs to review the rates: It needs money to pay for water and sewer infrastructure.

And just because the city wants tomake the billing system more “fair” doesn’t mean rateswill decrease for customers, he warned.

“You’re not going to pay less,” Chiarelli said.