Column: October 13, 2016

Water, wastewater & stormwater rate review

This is a reminder to residents that the City’s Environment Committee is meeting on October 18 (next Tuesday) to review the Water, Wastewater & Stormwater Rate Review Report that will be tabled. If you haven’t already done so, please read my column from last week (it’s posted on eliel-chantiry.ca) which reviews the full extent of the Report and what it will potentially mean to you as a resident.

I strongly encourage residents to voice their concerns and comments to the Environment Committee members before October 18. This can be done by emailing your feedback to the Committee Coordinator (Christopher.Zwierzchowski@ottawa.ca) and request your messaging be shared with members of the Committee. Alternatively, you may also register as a public delegation and speak to the Committee at its meeting on October 18. If you wish to do so, please contact Christopher Zwierzchowski using the email address above or by calling 613-580-2424 x21359.

Budget 2017

There is still time to provide feedback to the City which will be used in drafting of the City’s budget for 2017, which will be tabled at Council on November 9. You can provide your comments by:

  • Emailing budget@ottawa.ca
  • Participating in the online consultation at ottawa.citizenbudget.com
  • Tweeting @ottawacity using the hash tag #ottbudget
  • Calling 3-1-1

Subsequent to the tabling, residents can make a presentation to Standing Committees, Boards and Commissions when they meet to review the draft budget (go to the eAgenda on ottawa.ca for meeting times/locations).

Red-light cameras being installed at locations across the city

Five new red-light cameras will be installed throughout the city in 2016 with 15 more to be installed in 2017. These 20 cameras will be in addition to the existing 34 red-light cameras currently in operation at locations across Ottawa.

The program’s objective is to improve intersection safety by decreasing the number of red-light running occurrences. In 2014, there were 655 reportable angle collisions at signalized intersections in the city.

Red-light cameras take two photographs: the first is taken when a vehicle is about to enter an intersection with a red light, the second photograph shows the offending vehicle in the intersection. The fine for running a red light is $260, plus a $5 service fee and $60 victim surcharge. The City installs cameras at intersections based on collision rates.

Column: October 6, 2016

An Update on the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Rate Review

Earlier this year, residents were informed of the City of Ottawa’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rate Structure Review. At that time several public consultations were held – which were well attended and at which City staff received a lot of constructive input from the residents. This led to the delay of the report so that comments received could be properly reviewed.  Since then, staff worked with members of Council on finalizing the report and its recommendations. This report, which was released on Monday, October 3, will be presented to the Environment Committee on Tuesday, October 18.

The history on this issue is important and stems from amalgamation. Prior to amalgamation, residents contributed to stormwater management. Some paid for it through their general taxes, some through a specific stormwater rate and others as part of their sewer bill. The transition board overseeing the implementation of the amalgamated City of Ottawa commissioned a report which provided recommendations on how an amalgamated city could assess properties for stormwater costs. That report recommended cost collection through either the general tax rate or a specific fee charged as a line item on your tax bill. In April of 2001 however, Council instead voted to shift all stormwater costs to the water and sewer rate. This meant that some residents who used to pay for it no longer did and it also meant that residents who had always been paying for it started paying more.  For fifteen years, that is the system the City has been using.
 
The consultations held in the spring laid out proposals to move away from that system and create a new rate structure where those who receive a service pay for it. The main objective was to collect $42M across the City through a new stormwater fee, shifting those costs away from the water and sewer rate budget. The feedback on that proposal was met with much opposition, which brings us to the proposal before us today.
 
The financial details of the proposed rate structure are highlighted in the graphic shown at the bottom of this page. It illustrates a tiered approach in assessing properties for stormwater management. The tiers are based on level of service provided. For villages on water and sewer in communities like Carp, you will only notice a change in how your bill is presented. There will be a reduction in your bill on an average of $2 per month. For property owners on private services, the proposed monthly fee would be $1 for 2017, $2 for 2018, $3 for 2019 and $4 for 2020. The report proposes a phasing in of the charge over four years, meaning you would not pay the full $4 amount until 2020. This is something that would be paid annually on your tax bill (agricultural and forested lands will be exempt).  
 
I think it is important to point out that the total amount collected rurally through this updated charge will be $2M, which will go directly toward the $8M which is actually spent per year on rural stormwater services. This indicates that rural residents, while contributing towards stormwater services, will still be receiving more services than what they are actually paying for. This proposal certainly isn’t perfect, but it is a step forward from what was originally proposed when introduced last spring.
 
This report has been released a week earlier than normal so that residents can have an opportunity to digest the information. If you would like to address the Environment Committee on October 18 and provide your input, you may register to speak by contacting the Committee Coordinator: Christopher Zwierzchowski, Christopher.Zwierzchowski@ottawa.ca, 613-580-2424 x21359.
 
Note:  Pre-amalgamation, when all residents contributed toward stormwater services, many were permitted to fill in their ditch provided it did not impede drainage. That permission was removed in 2003. As a result of what we heard at the consultation sessions last spring, the report going to the Environment Committee on October 18 will recommend a review of the Ditch Alteration Policy with a view to develop a process to, once again, permit the infilling of ditches. This policy review will come to Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee in 2017.

Column: April 21, 2016

Update on the water, wastewater & stormwater rate structure review
 

Over the past month, the City of Ottawa held 8 public consultation sessions across Ottawa to collect feedback on proposed options for changes to the water, wastewater and stormwater rate structure. Staff is now analysing the feedback received from all sessions, including comments submitted through email and ottawa.ca, and is refining and reworking the options to reflect that feedback.
 
I have met with staff to discuss the strong response we heard from rural residents at the consultation sessions. One of the concerns raised was that the City had not left itself enough time to properly address shortcomings in the proposed options. In response, City staff are taking more time study the issue and will not be coming to Environment Committee with recommendations before June at the earliest.
 
I am and will remain engaged with Staff on this important issue to ensure that your concerns are being heard and I will make sure that you are kept informed of progress and new dates as we move forward
 
Community Forum aims to engage residents in city planning
 
Residents and businesses are invited to engage with City staff at a new event, Building Better Connections, a community forum organized by the City’s Planning and Growth Management Department. It promises to bring together Ottawa's residents and provide a space for meaningful discussion on a series of planning topics.
 
This event will take place Wednesday, May 4 from 7 to 9pm in Andrew S. Haydon Hall at Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West. This event will also be webcast live onottawa.ca/bbc. Questions will be accepted from both live audience members and online participants.
 
Keynote speaker John Campbell, former President and CEO of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, will discuss community participation and share his experience leading redevelopment projects in the public realm. Following John’s presentation, City staff will offer practical tips for residents with two information sessions – one on the workings of the Committee of Adjustment and one on how to make the most of your five minutes when presenting at a standing committee.
 
Seating is limited. Those wishing to attend in person are asked to via ottawa.ca before Friday, April 29.

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.

Column: May 28, 2015

Water, wastewater & stormwater structure review
 
On May 19, city staff tabled a Report entitled “Water, Wastewater & Stormwater Rate Structure Review” at the Environment Committee. This report made a recommendation to study the way the City charges for water, wastewater and stormwater services.
 
The City currently operates their rate structure for water and wastewater services based on a 100% consumption basis, based upon metered water usage. This rate structure has two principal limitations. First - only customers who pay for water and/or sewer services contribute to the cost of stormwater operations and infrastructure, however stormwater services benefit the entire community, rural and urban. Second - revenues for stormwater services are based on metered water consumption volumes, but the cost that drives rural stormwater management is related to runoff from properties. This lack of correlation between revenue and expenditures does not provide an equitable basis for allocating costs.
 
Currently, an excess of 45,000 properties do not have a water meter and are not charged for water, wastewater or storm water services. Of these, around 30,000 fall in the rural area and benefit from the stormwater system without contributing to the maintenance.
 
City staff are not recommending that rural residents with private wells and septic, pay sewer and water fees. They are looking to find a more effective and equitable way to incorporate the fixed cost of stormwater management (cleaning ditches, maintaining cross road culverts).
 
Please keep in mind the following:

  • The proposed study would look at best practices in other municipalities to see what options are fair and equitable.
  • The goal of the study is to ensure the system’s financial sustainability.
  • At this point, no new rate structures have been proposed
  • Prior to amalgamation, all or part of the cost of maintaining stormwater infrastructure was funded through the general property tax bill.
  • During amalgamation, these charges were transferred to the water bill resulting in some Ottawa properties receiving the benefit of stormwater services without contributing to them.
  • If approved by Council, staff will conduct the study, which will include a public engagement component and will report back to Committee and Council with options for a new rate structure in early 2016.
  • Any new rate structures approved by Council would not be brought into effect until 2017.