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Council eyeing water, sewer rate hike

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FORT FRANCES—As they work through the 2007 budget process, Fort Frances council is contemplating an increase to its water and sewer rates for both residents and businesses.

At a special budget meeting late Tuesday afternoon, council directed Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown to compile a report showing the impact of both two and three percent increases to water and sewer rates to all classes.

This report will be brought back to council at a future meeting.

Brown had pointed out Tuesday that as the water and sewer budget stands now, operating costs are nearly covered and only a one percent increase would be necessary to “break even” and avoid having to draw from reserves.

But Brown added the town has to start thinking about building up its water and sewer reserves in anticipation of future repairs to Fort Frances’ aging infrastructure.

Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft noted he’s always been a believer in long-term financial planning—and he didn’t want to see his generation’s children and grandchildren left on the hook for $60 million-$80 million to replace the water and sewer system in another 10 years.

Several councillors agreed, prompting the investigation into the impact of rate hikes beyond one percent. Mayor Roy Avis suggested 2.1 percent, keeping in line with inflation, while Coun. Paul Ryan offered three percent.

Coun. Tannis Drysdale said she’d like to see the impact of any of these increases across the various classes, whether it was to individual residences or to the paper mill, before council made any decisions as to rate hikes.

Just to give council some perspective on what an increase might mean in dollar terms, Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted a one percent increase to residential water and sewer rates would equal $7.33 extra per year, so a three percent hike would be equal roughly $22.

While it probably won’t happen before this year’s budget is finalized, Mayor Avis noted the town also must work at creating fairness between the various classes when it comes to water rates.

Currently, small commercial rates are too high while both residential and small commercial continue to cross-subsidize large commercial customers.

Along the same lines, the mayor added water meters for all customers also need to be looked at before rates are restructured.

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