Big Parrsboro Bills to Go Down the Sewer
Property owners in Parrsboro are halfway home to a huge cut in their Local Improvement Charge for sewer improvements.
Instead of paying $4,693.95, property owners along the sewer line will now be charged only $247.05—one twentieth of the original charge.
Council passed first reading of a motion to change the Local Improvement Bylaw today. It must pass again before it is official, but council has been clear for several months that this is the appropriate resolution to the thorny issue.
The sewer upgrade had been extended during the project leading to what was described as a cost overrun, but taxpayers had not be advised of the local improvement charge, nor of the increased cost in the project.
The matter was cause for a raucous protest in the council chamber when residents flooded the council chamber on June 19, 2019. The constant interruption of council proceedings and a rising level of anger prompted a call to the RCMP to maintain order.
The former county council sought ways to soften the financial blow, including payment terms over twenty years. However, residents continued to oppose the charge through the last county election and into the term of the current councillors, none of whom were on council for the earlier decision.
Cumberland borrowed the money for the project and the first bills for residents went out within the current fiscal year, last spring.
Residents who paid the entire bill or contributed instalments greater than the new charge will be issued a refund.
Cumberland’s revenue and financial capacity has greatly improved with certain increased funding and one-time top-ups from senior governments.
The local improvement charge will sound very familiar to property owners with access to the Pugwash Water Utility. Each property along the line also faced a local improvement charge of just over four thousand dollars. This bylaw change will not alter that and a ten year spread of payments remains the only relief for hard pressed taxpayers.
However, the two projects have prompted the county to review its role in the provision of water and sewer services.
Aside from the bylaw consideration for Parrsboro. the county is also looking at a possible amalgamation of all water services under one water utility. At present the county operates three, each of which requires hearings before the Utilities and Review Board, and all of which are facing a current review of rates and services.
The county is considering the creation of a single water utility to perhaps save money and streamline services for residents.
Chief Administrative Officer, Greg Herrett, says, “The municipal elections in 2020 returned a completely new council with a mandate for change. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, the time is right to explore the optimal financial configuration of the municipality with respect to the various rates and charges.”
Council agreed today and will “initiate a consultant
study of optimal revenue structure of the municipality, based on available services, taking into account general and area rates and other revenue generating and cost recovery tools as appropriate.”
The photo shows the protest in the council chamber in June 2019.
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