Council split on multiplier charge for multi-residential water, sewer

South Glengarry Corporate Services General Manager Lachlan McDonald. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

LANCASTER – South Glengarry council appears split on whether the township should resume using a billing multiplier for water and sewer charges for multi-residential properties.

The practice was halted in 2019 as the township undertook a review of its water and wastewater rates, which is very close to being approved in the next month or two.

The end goal of the phased-in multi-residential plan, which started in 2017, was to have every apartment unit pay the same water and sewer as a standalone house by 2023.

During last week’s council meeting (Feb. 16), Coun. Stephanie Jaworski was not comfortable with the multi-residential billing and wanted more information. “At a basic level, to me it doesn’t make sense that an apartment is having the same minimum charge as a detached house. But worse than that, particularly for me…the retirement homes where their units really are more like dormitories with small kitchenettes, I think it’s even more wrong that they are being charged a full minimum charge.”

Coun. Sam McDonell agreed. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to be paying that same base minimum. They don’t have yards. It’s not a like there’s a possibility they’re filling their swimming pool here and there.” McDonell says he would like to see how North Glengarry bills multi-residential buildings.

Mayor Frank Prevost thought the process was fair. “Three people living in an apartment versus three people living in a single family home, we felt it was fair that it was one-to-one.”

Council deferred a decision on water and sewer rates until it gets more information on the multi-residential billing.

Outside of that issue, staff are recommending the rate increases proposed by EVB Engineering for municipal water and wastewater systems in the township. They are:

  • A 3 per cent increase per year for Green Valley until 2025
  • A 10 per cent increase per year for Kennedy Redwood Estates until 2025
  • A 3 per cent increase per year for Glen Walter until 2025
  • A downward adjustment in billing for Lancaster and South Lancaster from $184.17 to $144.57 and then 3 per cent per year until 2025.

Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden doesn’t want to lower the Lancaster and South Lancaster rates.

“I feel like we’re doing a disservice to our residents by going backwards. Water and sewer is extremely expensive and I feel like a dollar saved today is worth more in the future,” he said.

Warden added the downward adjustment, which the consultant recommended because Lancaster and South Lancaster’s reserve funds are over target, is based on the assumption South Glengarry will get one-third funding from senior governments “that may not be there in the future and debentures are quite expensive.”

He does support the multi-residential billing phase-in.

Finance General Manager Lachlan McDonald will come back with information on the multi-residential billing to council in late March or early April.