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Water and sewer rates set to increase slightly

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

An increase of 1.8 per cent on water and sanitary sewer rates in 2019 is on the docket for Durham regional council.

If approved, water and sewer users will be paying an additional $17.28 on their bill in 2019, which means users will be paying an additional $1.44 every month starting Jan. 1.

In 2018, the average annual cost for water and sewer users in the residential sector was $935.20. In 2019, it is expected to increase to $952.48 for the year.

As it stands, water rates are expected to increase by 1.1 per cent, and sewer rates will increase by 2.8 per cent.

However, Oshawa Councillor Brian Nicholson wanted to know what is being done to make things easier on the water and sewer users.

“It’s gotten to the point where the users – especially residential users – are unwilling and unable to pay anymore. They’re tapped out,” said Nicholson.

Nicholson was critical of the methods in which the rates have risen. He noted that while there’s been plenty of studies on the user rates, there hasn’t been any on how it affects the average user.

Compared to other regions, Durham’s water and sanitary sewer rates are similar to those in  London, St. Catharines, and Waterloo. But they’re also significantly less than those of Belleville, Windsor and Newmarket, which are all around the $1,200 mark according to the report provided to council.

However, the report also notes the water and sewer users in Peel Region pay around $500 in water and sanitary sewer rates.

There will also be several water and sewer projects taking place around the region in 2019, with a few of them taking place in Oshawa.

One such project is the replacement of the sanitary sewer on Bloor Street between Ortono Avenue and Wilson Road, which the region has put aside $1.2 million for.

The second project in Oshawa is in conjunction with Clarington. The region will be aiding in the expansion of the system in place from Courtice Road to Trulls Road, and Trulls Road from Baseline Road to Bloor Street. The region has budgeted $25.9 million in sanitary sewer funding, and $4.2 million in watermain funding for the project.

The third phase of expanding the Bloor Street feedermain is also expected to begin in 2019.

Phase three will include an expansion of the feedermain from Ritson Road to Wilson Road. The region has put aside $5.5 million for this phase, with the total project cost is estimated to be $11.4 million.

Oshawa will also be getting upgrades to its water supply plant. The region has already put aside $2.5 million for the upgrades, and the total project cost is estimated to be $6.7 million.

Phase one and the detailed design of the upgrades have already been completed, which means construction is set to begin in 2019.

Two sites for automatic bulk water dispensing systems are also set to begin construction in 2019, as the detailed design will finish early that year according to the report.

The first of the two systems will be built in the Seaton reservoir in Pickering, and the second in the Whitby/Oshawa Depot on Conlin Road between Garrard Road and Thickson Road.

There will also be a system expansion to the Whitby water supply. The expansion will take place between Victoria Street and Thickson Road, and the region has put aside $3 million for 2019, and the total project cost is estimated to be $42.4 million.

Other notable water and sewer projects in Durham region include a watermain and sanitary sewer replacement on Centre Street in Whitby that is expected to cost $2.93 million.

There will also be a primary trunk sanitary sewer system repairs and rehabilitation in Pickering for which the region will contribute $1 million in 2019, with their total contribution expected to be $7.95 million.

In Clarington, there will be performance improvements to the grit tank and refurbishment of the mixers at the Courtice Water Pollution Control Plant. The region has put aside $1.7 million for the project.

The region’s water supply and sanitary sewer infrastructure is rated on a yearly basis from very poor to very good by staff.

According to the report, the water supply infrastructure is approximately 78 per cent very good or good, with the remaining 22 per cent either being fair, poor or very poor.

The sanitary sewer condition infrastructure rating is similar to that of the water supply, as it is 81 per cent very good or good. The remaining 19 per cent is rated fair, poor or very poor. Notably, the sanitary sewer condition rating is only 0.3 per cent very poor.

The proposed 2019 capital financing for the water supply is $113.8 million for 2019, which is up $12.3 million from 2018, which was $101.5 million.

The reason for the increase is a significant rise in development charges for the upcoming year, which has gone up from $31 million in 2018 to $59.2 million in 2019.

However, there has also been a decrease in debentures, which have been eliminated altogether, resulting in $17.6 million being taken out of the proposed capital financing.

The proposed capital financing for sanitary sewers in 2019 has also increased, up $31.7 million from 2018 to $81.2 million.

While there has been slight increases in each development charge, the largest impact comes from the addition of debentures, which comes out to an additional $25.9 million in 2019.

According to the report provided to council, it is estimated the region will incur a total of $111.7 million in capital and debt charges at the end of 2019. That number is expected to more than double by the end of 2022 to reached $223.8 million.

The total amount of the region’s water and sewer debts is expected to be $120 million at the end of 2019, a $10 million increase from 2018. By 2024, that debt is expected to reach $404 million, more than three times what is expected in 2019.

The rising debt can be attributed to the rising number of major capital projects that cannot be financed through anticipated revenue that normally comes in through development charges.

Some potential debentures include the work done on the Courtice trunk sewer, the Conlin Road sanitary sewer pumping station and several others.