By Jesse Baker
The Environment Committee meeting held on February 19 primarily served as a discussion of the proposed seven percent increase in 2013 water and sewer rates. The meeting began with a presentation of the city’s proposed 2013 and 2014 Water and Wastewater Operating and Capital Budgets and featured two delegations from the public. The Committee unanimously approved the 2013 rate increase and supported the plan to invest the revenues in underground infrastructure projects.
The proposal brought before the Committee provides for a capital budget of $210 million in 2013 to support infrastructure renewal in Ottawa. The proposed rate hike would help finance long-term investments such as a new combined sewage tunnel downtown and preventing sewage from entering the river through the Ottawa River Action Plan.
The proposal was approved by a unanimous vote at the Environment Committee. Thumbs up to Councillors Maria McRae, David Chernushenko, Mathieu Fleury, Peter Hume, Steve Desroches, and Scott Moffatt. Ecology Ottawa was pleased that the Committee passed this motion, especially in light of the fact that officeholders are normally under pressure to avoid rate increases. This increase promises to help pay for the increasing number of pipes and sewers which are in need of repair, while also encouraging water conservation and discouraging waste. This seven percent hike, which will represent an increase to the average bill of slightly less than one dollar per week, is in line with those of other Canadian municipalities. Councillor Chernushenko most effectively advocated for the motion when he reminded Council that “if we do not keep up with maintenance of our infrastructure, at some point we have to pay the piper.”