Salmon Arm  

Water rate increases top of mind for Chase residents at village budget open house

Frustrated by water rates

Several dozen residents attended the Village of Chase budget discussion open house on Wednesday evening, and many left still frustrated by recent water and sewer rate increases.

Recent water rate increases and the addition of a minimum consumption rate has caused discontent among community members. A large number of failing water meters seems to be exacerbating the problem.

Chase resident Megan Stratikopoulos said the changes to water rates have been a huge shock to the community.

“I think it's a big hit to the community and it's a small community,” Stratikopoulos said. “You want to keep people here, I like it here, but it's pretty hard to swallow a change like this.

“And while I fully believe that this change is needed, I just think something could have happened a lot sooner to help ease this."

Inside the Chase Community Centre, village staff had three stations set up with slide shows displaying information about different sections of the budget.

One area was set up for planning and infrastructure, another showed information for water and sewage, and another showed the overall 2024 budget picture.

Staff members were present to answer questions and discuss the information that was presented. The mayor and four councillors were on hand having discussions with residents in small groups, and a budget feedback form was also available for attendees.

Coun. Jane Herman acknowledged the event format was different from what some people expected.

“Well, I think people were a bit disappointed in the format, which I thought was going to be excellent,” Herman said.

“I thought the three stations dealing with capital, water and sewer and the budget would be a great time for people to read everything and ask questions about it. But it seemed like people wanted a meeting.”

“We'll see tomorrow on social media how it went,” she added.

'We have to bite the bullet'

Water and sewage rates seemed to be the main issue on most attendees' minds.

“The water has been the thing that we've heard the most about, but we have not raised water rates for years and what we were collecting was not even paying for the water delivery and the infrastructure stuff,” Herman said.

“So it's time that we have to bite the bullet and make it pay for itself.”

The Chase water system has been operating with an average deficit of about $200,000 every year for the past several years, and the rate increases are aimed at fixing that. With the rate increases, the water system is budgeted to have a modest surplus of $57,800.

Herman said she hoped the event helped people understand the importance of infrastructure.

“I think what I hope that people leave here realizing is that all of our infrastructure is the most important thing that we have to protect, and we have to look after it,” Herman said.

“We have to pay for our loans and our sewer and our water. I mean, we couldn't exist without it.”

A few Chase residents were waiting by the exit gathering signatures for a petition to request the minimum consumption flat rate to be repealed, and that the cubic rate increase be reviewed with the goal of implementing smaller increases spread over several years.

The petition form claimed that the addition of the flat rate consumption charges added up to a 70 per cent increase for single seniors living on a fixed income.

Chase village council is scheduled to hold its next regular meeting on March 12 at 4 p.m., and public feedback on the budget is expected to be a major topic of discussion.

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