CORNWALL – City council still has to formally sign off, but Cornwallites can expect to see a slight increase in their water and sewer bill for 2015.
Council passed the $16.8 million budget at a special council meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The budget, which is heavy on upgrading and repairing the city’s aging water infrastructure, has an overall increase of 1.33 per cent.
Depending on the number of taps and fixtures in your house, it will add $7-11 to your annual bill.
Coun. Brock Frost, who ran on a tax freeze platform, tried unsuccessfully to first pull and then spread out a $550,000 a water tower rehabilitation project.
“I was elected on a tax freeze of zero per cent. That’s what they (the constituents) wanted. That’s why I was elected. Therefore, it’s my job to bring that and try to push that through council,” Frost told Cornwall Newswatch.
The funding proposal, supported by Coun. David Murphy, to spread the financing over two years resulting in a water and sewer rate decrease was also defeated.
“That was a very reasonable middle ground in my opinion. It would have resulted in a slight decrease in taxes and we could have paid for it over a couple of years. Seems to be to very fiscally responsible. But, again, it’s a democracy and we were voted down,” Frost said.
But CAO Norm Levac had a warning for councillors about the project, which has to be done by 2017. “While it’s paint (the coating), it’s not cosmetic. You really need to be careful that this issue goes to far. It’s (the water tower) exceeded its life expectancy.”
Also running on a fiscal accountability platform, Coun. David Murphy tried unsuccessfully to convince his colleagues to pull $30,000 for three to four water bottle stations.
“The notion that’s it’s only $30,000. Tell that to the average resident, a single income, that might only be making $30,000. That’s a year’s salary,” Murphy said.
Had he been successful, it would have equated to a $1 per year credit per household.
“The budget’s good. The projects are good. We’re making sure that water is safe for the residents in the City of Cornwall. I don’t have a problem with any of that. I was just making an attempt to find ways to differentiate need to haves (from the) nice to haves as I’ve always done and it wasn’t a success this time,” Murphy told Cornwall Newswatch.
There’s $300,000 in the budget to make safety upgrades to the water treatment plant to address the handling of fluoride.
The notion of putting fluoride back in the water drew a lot of concern from Coun. Andre Rivette.
He was upset that fluoride propaganda has been stuffed in councillors’ city mailboxes.
Several councillors agreed that there needs to be an extensive consultation process with the public before a final decision is made on adding fluoride to the water.
There hasn’t been fluoride in Cornwall’s drinking water for nearly a year after the fluoridation system was shut down over worker health and safety issues.
Coun. Frost even suggested a referendum on the issue.
Councillors will meet again on Dec. 16 to pass the bylaw authorizing the rate increase, which will show up in the spring billing in April 2015.