| Aug 07, 2008

Feature Article - August 7, 2008

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Feature Article - August 7, 2008 Sydenham Residents Gain Concession on Water Levy

At the July 15 Committee of the Whole meeting, Council had rejected CAO Gord Burns’ proposal to pass Sydenham water levy bylaw, which was accompanied by a schedule of payment for all of he affected properties in the village. Costs were slated to average between $6,000 and $8,000 for most households, depending on their road frontage and other factors.

See South Frontenac Water Debate Dribbles On

At the time, Council was divided over whether the plant was overbuilt or not, and debated whether current residents should pay for water that they are unlikely to use, instead of charging those costs to new developments that could spring upon the edges of the village over the next 20 years.

As requested, Burns submitted a second report, outlining three options and asking council’s direction.

His first option reiterated his earlier recommendation that there was "no significant justification for the township absorbing additional costs for the added capacity of the plant." In support, he said the Ministry of the Environment "is certain that once more people are hooked into the system and people become more comfortable with the use of the system (the volume of water use) will climb." Burns noted that if present use should rise, council could not claw back an adjustment, if one were made.

The second, more political option would be for the township to pick up the additional capacity costs, based on an estimation by the engineering firm Tottenham Sims Hubiki that if the plant had been designed for half the present capacity, the cost saving would amount to approximately $775,000. The residents’ share of this would be $258,000. Should council decide to support this option, Burns, though not in agreement, would recommend that the township delete $258,000 from the total capital costs being charged to residents, pay that amount out of reserves, and recover it through future development.

His third option addressed a development fund created by adding a levy to property taxes throughout the township. Such a fund could become available to assist all township residents with drinking water issues. However, Burns said that the development and administration of such a fund would be complicated, time-consuming and expensive in terms of staffing required.

There was general agreement that setting up a development fund was a separate issue from the question of whether or not Sydenham residents were being asked to fund the capital costs of a water plant with up to 50% excess capacity.

Councillor Hahn said he found the argument that the plant had an overlarge capacity persuasive, and questioned who should fairly pay for the excess capacity: the present residents, or new development as it accesses the water system? Robinson agreed, saying, "If [residents] are only using 33% [of the plant’s capacity], the long and the short of it is that they’re being overcharged and it’s our job to help them."

A motion was made by David Hahn, seconded by Councilor John Fillion, to accept Burns’ report, with option #2 being the preferred one It passed 5 to 4, supported by Fillion, Robinson, McPhail, Hahn and York.

The impact of this decision on individual Sydenham ratepayers will be calculated in the coming weeks and a new levy bylaw will be prepared.

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