Gore Bay hikes water fees to its Gordon/Barrie Island water/sewer users and G/BI demands a discussion

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GORE BAY—Gore Bay council has given its approval for a 20 percent surcharge to be applied to all water/sewer users outside the geographic limits of the Town of Gore Bay, namely Gordon/Barrie Island, effective January 1, 2023.

“Our council can’t understand why a 20 percent increase is being implemented and that it is an unfair surcharge,” stated Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island after the township council discussed the proposed increase by Gore Bay to water users in the township. “Our lawyer had informed us over a year ago that the water and sewer agreement was faulty and needed to be refreshed and rewritten. I can’t speak on why, but one thing was that it was not properly worded, and for instance does not include an exit clause for either party. We gave the town notice at that time (December 2021) that we wanted to review and discuss a new  agreement. That is the way this has stood until the town sent our township and water users a notice.”

“There are a lot of things we are trying to figure out in all of this, what we can or should be doing,” said Reeve Hayden. “We are trying to figure out the tax implications, including the school board portion, on a commercially assessed building owned by a neighbouring municipality and what we can or should be doing under the provincial act.”

Reeve Hayden said provincial legislation states the town shall pay all commercial taxes, including school board. Under the old agreement, Gordon/Barrie Island was charging 20 percent of the commercial municipal property tax rate bill, and this needs to be reviewed to reflect fair contribution to the municipal tax base.

“We are willing, and want to sit down with the town to discuss all of this at the table and the structure that has to be in place, can be or should be under provincial legislation,” said Reeve Hayden.

In a letter to all water users in Gordon/Barrie Island dated September 1, 2022, Michael Lalonde, town treasurer on behalf of the town explained, “please be advised that council of Gordon Barrie Island made a unilateral decision to terminate an agreement with the Town of Gore Bay which established water and sewer rates for Gordon/Barrie Island residents.”

“As a direct result, the town of Gore Bay will implement a 20 percent surcharge effective January 1, 2023, on all water and sewer rates charged to any resident or organization outside of the municipal boundaries of Gore Bay connected to this utility. The surcharge will be an additional fee on affected utility bills monthly or semi-annually,” continued the Gore Bay letter.

Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne told The Expositor after a recent meeting, “When the new water treatment plant was built in Gordon/Barrie Island, Joyce Foster was mayor of the town and an agreement had been reached by the two councils at the time that we, Gore Bay, didn’t have to pay the full tax rate for water, and in turn Gordon residents and businesses on the water lines would pay the same as town water users do.”

“Prior to that, Gordon residents on town water paid the same water rates as the town residents,” explained Mayor Osborne. “Gordon/Barrie Island council sent us a letter earlier this year, indicating the taxes and agreement were null and void, and indicating there was no end date on the agreement. So we had to do something that will recoup the increase that we would be losing. Yes, we expect there will be Gordon/Barrie Island residents that will be screaming at the town about this increase. But it was the township council that made this decision.”

Mayor Osborne said Gore Bay had reached out to Gordon/Barrie Island about continuing the agreement, but Gordon/Barrie Island indicated that the agreement would be void as of January 2023. Gore Bay council subsequently passed a motion at a meeting indicating a 20 percent surcharge would be applied for all those Gordon residents outside of Gore Bay.

“We are still waiting and are willing to have a meeting with the town to revisit this whole issue and see what can be done,” added Reeve Hayden.