Friday, February 22, 2008

Timmins to study water meters

The city is going to explore the idea of having water meters installed in residential homes.
City Engineer Luc Duval is preparing a Request For Proposal on a study to have Timmins switch to water meters with a user-pay billing plan.
Currently in Timmins, most home owners pay a flat rate for their water regardless of the amount of residential water use. Many businesses, and some home owners, have opted for water meters in instances where not a lot of water is used on a regular basis.
Duval told council he will be working throughout the spring to put together terms of reference on such things as the cost of installing meters, what type of meters and how to set rates.
He said the Timmins plan would likely be modeled after a similar study being done by the City of North Bay, which is also studying its water rates.
“It will be fairly extensive,” Duval told council, saying his hope is that the study will give the city an action plan and some options on how to put a water meter system in place.
“All this goes hand in hand in terms of water conservation and pay-for-what-you-use,” he said.
“And I know council has been vocal in looking at that as a strategy, so this is something that will address that. Certainly the people that use less water should pay less.”
Councillor Pat Bamford expressed concern the idea might backfire with some residents paying significantly higher rates.
“I am concerned on direction you are going with that,” Bamford told Duval.
“When I spoke on this it was never my intention to blanket the city with water meters because the way the set-up is now, it will be too costly for some households,” he said. “They’d be paying more than what they’re paying now. And yet some larger homes might be paying less. We really have to look at how we’re going.”
City administrator Joe Torlone said that in order for a meter system to work properly, all 18,000 households in the Timmins would have to be on the meter system.
“I want to make it clear. It cannot be voluntary, like where this house is on a meter, and the next two houses are not, and so on.” Torlone told council.
“And regardless what billing system you go to, we still have to pay for the water. It just all depends on how we divide it up.”
“This is just my opinion. It would have to be a decision of council,” Torlone conceded. He added that it wouldn’t necessarily mean a free ride for low water users either. He said the water bill would begin with a flat rate and then rise gradually depending on how much water you use.
“Everybody pays whether you use one ounce or one litre or 100,000 litres,” said Torlone.
“It starts as a flat rate and then you add to that. And so senior citizens, and low income people or those who don’t have great water use would then pay accordingly.
“The ones who decide to water their driveways or fill their pools would pay a higher amount,” Torlone suggested.

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