Hollingsworth: Cornwall water meters ’10 years of pain for long term gain’

In this December 2018, file photo, Cornwall Coun. Dean Hollingsworth asks a question during a special council meeting to pass the water and sewer budget. Hollingsworth was open to having a council discussion on residential water meters. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The first Cornwall councillor to float the idea of water meters after the municipal election says it’s something the city needs to pursue.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch after Tuesday’s council meeting, Dean Hollingsworth says, from the staff report he reviewed, he can see the long term gain for the city.

“It would seem that it’s favourable…the water meters seem to represent some savings, long term capital, that kind of thing. If you can think (of it) in that way then definitely we need to pursue it,” Hollingsworth said. The city estimates it could save $300,000 a year in power and chemicals at the water plant with water meters.

That’s because a Cornwall household uses 450 liters of water a day on average – almost double the national average.

“In terms of the (water) rates, I think what people don’t realize is there is going to be some up and some down but that’s inevitable. To me, the ultimate upside is that you could potentially control to a certain degree what your bill is going to be,” he said.

Council also heard that residents could potentially pay anywhere $770-950 per household over 10 years for a water meter which has a lifespan of 20 years. As well, the internal components have a 10-12 year lifespan. Their replacement cost is about $100.

“I’m not sure if there is any real easy way of pitching it. Nobody wants to pay more than they have to. It’s regrettable that the municipality didn’t 20 or 30 years ago, (when) the big cities started getting on board (with water meters) maybe you could argue we should have then,” he said.

Using an example of a family in their 20s, Hollingsworth says it’s a “50 year proposition. So 10 years of pain for long term gain. There’s just no way of getting around it but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”

City administration are now coming up with a report on how to implement a water meter program, including public outreach, but it will be a while before homeowners see a water meter in their home.

Environment Division Manager Carl Goodwin told council the public survey was an exercise to get the public’s “knowledge level” on water meters.

“In my mind, I would envision, community outreach would be to go out, sit with our residents with some tea and listen,” Goodwin said.

Mayor Bernadette Clement says she was struck that Cornwall is one if not the only municipality around 47,000 without water meters and the province “has taken some notice of this” during audits. She believes the city should act now on meters before its likely forced to by the provincial government.

The entire water meter project has a price tag of $11-12 million.