50/50 split for voluntary water meters

Mission council a vote away from approving program

Mission residents eager to be a part of a water metering program will have to wait at least a few month months to sign up.

Mission council has approved a voluntary metering program, with interested residents paying 50 per cent of the installation costs, and the district retaining ownership of the meters.

But before staff can proceed with the next steps, council needs to approve the minutes of the meeting, said Mission’s director of engineering and public works, Rick Bomhof, noting councillors can still change their minds.

Typically, minutes are submitted to council in the next few weeks following the meeting, but Bomhof noted the minutes from the Aug. 14 meeting are being held back until all council members are back from holidays.

The next scheduled meeting with a full council is Oct. 21.

“Metering has been an ongoing discussion for a couple of years,” said Bomhof, who isn’t surprised elected officials need more time. “There’s a lot to think about.”

Water meters are an effective tool to manage the system, according to the engineer. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. In Abbotsford (with whom Mission shares a water system), they’re able to see where potential problems and suspected leaks are, and we can work with them to fix it.”

Coun. Jeff Jewell agreed the lack of data prevents Mission from knowing exactly how water is being consumed by residents.

“The only data that we have is that data that comes from bulk meters and the best estimates they can provide,” said Jewell. “It gives us numbers we don’t want to believe.”

Council is primarily discussing water meters because Abbotsford is suggesting Mission residents are overusing water, said Mayor Ted Adlem, who believes homeowners should bear the full cost of a water meter in a voluntary program.

“There’s always a cost to volunteer,” he said, noting there are fees involved for anyone volunteering to be a part of any service club. “I’ve compromised and said 50 per cent is fair.”

The cost to each homeowner will depend on where they want the water meter placed. A meter installed inside the house is estimated to cost between $525 to $675 and a meter installed outside the house could cost between $1,100 to $1,700 depending on the type of driveway at the home that needs to be restored. Property owners will split the cost with the district.

A report to council estimated the cost for three installation scenarios in the voluntary metering program for all homes currently without meters — about 9,000.

Under the first scenario, all of the meters would be installed at the property line, including those within paved driveways requiring repair — at a cost of $13 million.

The second scenario, estimated to cost $10 million, would see meters installed inside the 27 per cent of homes where driveway repairs are necessary, and at the property line for the remaining.

And the final option is to install the meters inside all the homes at cost of $6.6 million.

Capital costs of up to $13.1 million would be taken from the community works gas tax reserve fund, the water capital reserve fund, and the sewer capital reserve fund.

Additional operating costs for the voluntary metering program would be an estimated $423,000.

“All developers have to pay to bring water meters in,” said Adlem. “If you want a secondary suite or a coach house, you’ll have to pay for the water meters too.”

The district already meters institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) properties, and most multi-family buildings.

Staff had proposed to begin the program in January 2015.

Currently, owners of detached houses pay a flat rate of $819.48 per year in water and sewer costs.

Under new rates proposed for Jan. 1, 2015, existing metered properties and new construction will have the option to pay either a flat rate of $917.09 or a metered rate.

The latter option consists of a $232 base rate, plus $0.91 per cubic metre of water consumed and an additional sewer rate of 77 per cent of the total water usage.

Homeowners with average water consumption would save approximately $35 over the proposed flat rate. Those with lower water consumption could save upwards of $140.

Those living in a home constructed after 2009 will already have a water meter.

— with files from MARIA SPITALE-LEISK