Column: March 17, 2016

Water, wastewater & stormwater rate structure review
The City of Ottawa is developing a new rate structure to fund water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Many Ward 5 residents have expressed concerns about the proposed new rate structure. Let me begin by clarifying that property owners will not be asked to pay for a service that does not benefit them. If your property has private well and septic systems, you will not be asked to pay to support the City’s water and wastewater systems.
One of the goals of this review is to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of providing the services that benefit their property. Property owners who do not pay a water bill (which includes both rural residential and urban commercial properties) are not currently contributing to the cost of stormwater infrastructure. The proposed new stormwater fee would be paid by all Ottawa properties that benefit from stormwater services.  
What is stormwater management? It manages the safe transportation of rain and meltwater across Ottawa. Ottawa’s stormwater infrastructure is much greater than the ditches in front of houses. It includes thousands of kilometres of roadside ditches and thousands of culverts to collect and manage stormwater throughout Ottawa. If you travel anywhere along roads in Ottawa, you benefit from stormwater infrastructure. It protects roads, properties and local waterways from flooding and erosion. It services a vast network of culverts, ditches, stormwater ponds, catch basins and stormwater pipes. One example, many of you will recall, were the recent washouts on Thomas A. Dolan Pkwy and Ridgetop Road. The work required to make these repairs was over $710,000 – all of which was funded solely from the urban water bill revenue.
I should provide some background for context purposes so residents can understand what’s happening. Before amalgamation, all stormwater drainage in West Carleton was paid for on the residents’ tax bills. At the time, the Transition Board that oversaw the amalgamation process decided to put stormwater costs from the tax bill to the sewer and water rate bill. Since amalgamation, all stormwater costs in the rural areas have been assessed only to those who pay water and sewer bills. This means that residents in the Village of Carp are paying for something that the residents in the rest of West Carleton-March do not. As it currently stands, the City of Ottawa spends $8 million every year on stormwater work rurally and only those who receive a water and sewer bill pay for it.
As part of this rate review, there are three options that the City is looking at for calculating the stormwater charge:

  • Flat fee:  stormwater services are divided equally and all properties pay the same rate
  • Assessment based fee:  stormwater costs are allocated to properties based on the assessed value of each property
  • Impervious surface:  an average impervious surface is calculated for three categories of residences: single detached home, townhouse and apartments. A different rate would be charged for each category. Non-residential customers would pay based on the actual calculated impervious area of their property.

Depending on which option above is implemented, it should be noted that the actual cost to the taxpayer will range from about $5 to $9 per month.
The City is now seeking your feedback on this review and residents can register to participate in one of the following public consultation sessions:

  • Monday, March 21, from 7 to 9 p.m., Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Boulevard
  • Tuesday, March 29, from 7 to 9 p.m., West Carleton Community Complex, 5670 Carp Road
  • Wednesday, March 30 from 7 to 9 p.m., City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West
  • Thursday,  March 31, from 7 to 9 p.m., Navan Memorial Centre, 1295 Colonial Road
  • Saturday, April 2, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Metcalfe Community Centre, 8243 Victoria Street
  • Tuesday, April 5, from 7 to 9 p.m., Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre, 2300 Community Way
  • Thursday, April 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Avenue

 This is a very important issue and if you want your voice heard, please attend one of these consultation sessions. I will be on hand at the session on March 29 at the West Carleton Community Complex and I hope to see many of you there. I need to hear from you so I have something to work with as I go forward with this process and in discussions with city staff, Mayor Watson and my council colleagues.