Councillors shirk responsibility with storm water reprieve – Ottawa

There aren’t many sexy municipal issues — purchasing bylaw amendments, anyone? — and storm water sewer infrastructure is no exception.

Pipes, tunnels and ditches that collect rainwater are hardly a basis for a House of Cards plot.

But in case we needed a reminder about why that underground network is so important, Wednesday afternoon’s torrential downpour provided one. As climate change brings more unexpected, freakish weather, our infrastructure will take a beating.

And yet, mere hours earlier, council flushed its responsibility to fund storm water sewers over the next decade down the drain. They opted instead for a short-term fix that will see a drop in next year’s rate increase, but requires borrowing $3 million and punts more difficult decisions well past the October 2018 municipal election.  

Rural storm water saga, redux

Last year around this time, rural residents raised a ruckus over being charged for storm water sewer services for the first time in years.

The city was overhauling the water and sewer bill to make the revenue stream more predictable and, in addition to charging for actual water use, instituted a fixed charge to cover infrastructure costs. 

Even though storm water has nothing to do with water consumption, the charge for storm water service had always appeared as a percentage of the water bill. So rural properties not connected to the municipal water system hadn’t paid a cent into the storm water system for years because they didn’t get water bills.

Under the new billing structure, those rural homeowners would start being charged $4.44 per month. (The rural stormwater sewer rate is lower than the urban rate.)

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt said he felt ‘blindsided’ by the double-digit increases proposed for storm water sewer services. (CBC)

They were furious, and eventually council agreed to phase in the charges over four years. In 2017, a rural homeowner paid less than $14 for stormwater service, or $1.16 per month.

Earlier this month, some rural residents became enraged all over again, after a 10-year plan for the water and sewer system showed annual planned increases of 10, 12, even 13 per cent.

For Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who had defended the city’s position last year against pushback from some of his own residents, the increases suddenly gave credence to the argument that the storm water charge was nothing but a tax grab.

To be fair to…

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