Phil Blake Part 2
During the May 5 regular meeting of council, Sunsite Estates resident and water rates crusader Phil Blake made his second deputation to council in a month to discuss concerns with the proposed budget, especially as they pertain to the running of the water treatment plants in Manitowaning and Sunsite Estates and the subsequent water rates.
At his last meeting with council, Mr. Blake requested that any surplus go back to the Sunsite Estates ratepayers rather than into reserves.
According to clerk Jeremy Rody, in 2013 the water rates for Sunsite and Manitowaning were frozen with the stipulation that the taxpayers had to pay back the difference over the next four years (2014-2017). The difference for Sunsite was approximately $24,000 and therefore each year (2014-17) an additional $6,000 is put into the Sunsite water budget to pay back the rate freeze from 2013 and will show up again this year as an additional cost at Sunsite Estates water users’ water bills.
In 2014, there was a surplus in the Sunsite water budget of $6,916 which went to reserves in addition to the $6,000 that is owed to the reserve (from the 2013 rate freeze).
Mr. Blake asked council that if there is a budget surplus in 2015 if it can be applied to the $6,000 owed to reserve for 2016. For example, if there is a $2,000 surplus this year, he is asking that it go towards the $6,000 that is owed to reserves, meaning that residents would contribute $4,000 in budgeted figures.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” said CAO Alton Hobbs. “I would be curious to see if we ever have another surplus like that again.” Council agreed with the CAO.
Mr. Blake said that he would like permission to sit in on the municipality’s quarterly meetings with the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), the outfit that runs the water treatment plants. Reeve Paul Moffat assured him that he would be kept in “the loop.”
Mr. Blake reminded council that the Northeast Town is paying less than Assiginack when both municipalities have two treatment plants of similar sizes, urging the reeve to keep pressure on OCWA to see a reduction in costs.
“That is of the utmost importance, keeping the costs down for taxpayers,” the reeve responded.
Mr. Blake reiterated the fact from his first visit to council that the proposed budget saw little incentive for OCWA to decrease costs, for instance in hydro.
“The budget really doesn’t show this,” he said, “it’s status quo. This affects all the users and what they pay for water.”
Mr. Blake said the residents of Sunsite Estates are willing to do whatever it takes, for instance a complete shutdown of the water system, to check for leaks.
Following up on Mr. Blake’s talk on wind turbines providing energy for the hydro-expensive lagoon system, council said they were eager to learn more and would be in touch with the company that produces the technology, which could save the township $25,000 a year in electricity costs.
Council renewed its 2015-2016 comprehensive insurance renewal policy with JLT/MIS/Knox Insurance Brokers at an insurance premium cost of $42,893 plus taxes. The renewal reflects the removal of water and wastewater facilities property coverage (nor purchased directly from OCWA) and an update on vehicle coverage.
Last year’s insurance renewal premium was $65,382.12 plus applicable taxes.
Cheque register report
Council approved for payment the following accounts: general, $49,494.02; and payroll, $15,841.99.
Council passed the budget as presented by staff.
For the 2015 corporate capital budget, expenditures are anticipated at $620,990.57, revenue at $132,200 and the corporate net levy at $488,790.57.
“I’m pleased with what staff has done,” said Councillor Leslie Fields. “Thanks to all the staff who put so many hours into it.”
Forty thousand dollars has been budgeted this year for the renovation of the municipal office with the project being paid for over the next four to five years.
Capital items in the budget include: a section of Michael’s Bay Road to be resurfaced ($27,000 this year); sidewalks and ditches ($15,000); work on Spragge Street ($40,000); Cardwell Street reconstruction payback to reserves ($35,620); LED lighting project ($61,000); white tail deer statue ($15,000); and waterfront work, $12,500.
Residents will see a 2.5 percent increase to their taxes this year.
Tax, water and sewer rates bylaws
Council passed three bylaws at its last meeting, Bylaw 15-12 to set tax ratios, Bylaw 15-13, to set tax rates, penalty and interest rates, and Bylaw 15-14 to set water and sewage rates for Manitowaning and Sunsite Estates.