Millstream water rates see heavy rise

Community near Ucluelet must replace roughly $2.4 million of infrastructure within 20 years.

Millstream residents are receiving a bit of a shock in their stockings this holiday season as the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District board recently approved increasing their annual water rates from $725 to $1,000, starting in the New Year.

In a report presented to the board during their last meeting of 2019 on Dec. 11, the ACRD’s manager of operations Jenny Brunn explained that Millstream must replace roughly $2.4 million of infrastructure within the next 20 years.

“With only 43 properties sharing this service, it equates to $46,000 per household,” Brunn wrote. “This amount does not include annual operation and maintenance costs which in 2019 was budgeted at $40,100 and are expected to increase annually as the cost of living increases and the system deteriorates causing more emergency repairs.”

READ MORE: Ucluelet eyes Kennedy Lake as potential water source for growing community

Millstream residents have been paying a flat-rate of $725 for their water since 1995, according to Brunn.

In addition to the 38 per cent jump in 2020, residents of the Electoral Area C community can expect an additional 2 per cent increase each year for the next five years.

“There’s some major upgrades that have to happen,” Area C Director Kel Roberts told the Westerly News. “The infrastructure is pretty old and some of it’s failing, so there’s going to have to be some major changes in the system”

Brunn’s report suggests that the annual water fees would need to be $2,000 in order to raise enough funds to cover the infrastructure upgrade by 2040

“Long term options will be considered before recommending an increase to $2,000 per year,” she wrote. “Making this incremental change will allow time to examine ways to defer or reduce costs or seek other recovery methods.”

Roberts said the board decided to raise the annual fee gradually “instead of hammering everybody right away” and suggested supplemental funding sources will be pursued.

“We’re going to try to do as much as we can,” he said. “Absolutely we’re going to be pursuing grant opportunities, but certainly we want to make sure that the water system in Millstream is up to par.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s rural water systems need work to be safe, auditor says

He said the news should not come as a surprise to residents, as the increase was discussed during a public meeting in the spring and information was distributed online at www.acrd.bc.ca, but suggested it can be tough to deliver information throughout his constituency.

“It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but when we hold these open houses and post stuff on the Regional District website, people have to be on point and they have to go and check these things out,” he said.

Brunn’s report suggests that at least one Millstream resident has raised the idea of charging the community’s vacation rental operators more because of their relatively higher water requirements.

Roberts said the ACRD is investigating a potential metre system that would capture heavier users.

“As far as vacation rentals is concerned, there is some talk about it, but how do you nail it down?,” he said. “We’re learning and we’ll follow up with that as time goes on.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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