Cornwall residential water meters could include fixed rates

Cornwall CFO Tracey Bailey and Municipal Works Division Manager Bill de Wit speak to city council on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. Staff suggest that water meters for households in the city, if the plan goes ahead, could include partial flat rates with consumption surcharges on top of those initial fees. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The manager of Cornwall’s municipal works department suggests a household water meter system would see people not get away from flat rate charges entirely — it would actually be a blend of fixed costs with a consumption surcharge.

Speaking to city council Monday night, Bill de Wit says they are looking to hire a consultant to figure out the actual new rate structure.

“If we were to implement a water meter rate (we) would look at a new rate perhaps with a fixed (rate) component and then a water consumption component but this is something we don’t have the expertise to even talk about right now,” de Wit said.

In theory, a partial flat rate would ensure the city would still have a guaranteed amount of money coming in to cover water and sewer operations, even if users suddenly turned off the taps, so to speak, leading to a drastic drop in consumption.

Council agreed last month to have staff move ahead with putting together a water meter implementation plan and rate study.

As the city delves into a water meter study, city brass suggest another sector within the municipality, already on water meters, is being subsidized by flat rate customers.

As for paying for those household water meters, the head of finance suggests there may be an option where households won’t have to pay for their water meters, financed over 10 years.

“It may not be an increase of $70 or $80 per year for a water meter if there are other options for funding that,” CFO Tracey Bailey said.

“What we hope to see in the study that is done regarding water meters is different options or recommendations that could be brought to council for consideration if water meters are considered,” she said.

Coun. Claude McIntosh said there’s a common misconception in the public that their “water bill” is $850 a year, for example. The water is the smaller component of the bill, which is both water and sewer. Sewer is charged at a rate of 1.3 times the rate of water. “They’ll still have to pay the waste water full rate and the saving with a (water) meter is not going to be all that great because it’s such a small number,” he said.

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