by LAURA KEIL
Residents who had the luxury of “opting out” of garbage collection or water/sewer charges won’t have that option this year.
During their March 22nd budget meeting, McBride Village Council discussed the issue of residents “opting out” of utilities in order to avoid the fees – what may have totalled $13,000 in lost revenue.
Village CAO Kelley Williams says the bylaw never allowed for opting out, but some residents were still given that opportunity.
“Should some citizens be allowed to opt out, the Village has put the onus of infrastructure support on some households/businesses and not others,” Williams says. “Not only is this an unequitable practise, it could lead to insufficient funds for infrastructure maintenance and repair.”
Financial Officer Enid Keir said the issue is a matter of fairness as well as one of enforcement.
“You can’t pick and choose who you charge garbage to.”
Under the current bylaws, the only properties that are exempt from garbage fees are businesses that are closed. However, the building owner still has to pay for water and sewer. Empty lots are also exempt from utilities fees.
Under current bylaws all residents must pay for garbage pick-up, water and sewer, regardless of how often they use them, even if the house is vacant.
“It doesn’t matter if the water is turned off,” Keir says. “If someone is able to live in that building, they have to pay for all our services.”
Mayor Loranne Martin said allowing opting out would be an “absolute administrative nightmare.”
“Say someone doesn’t have garbage pick-up in February, but six months down the road he has someone renting his building. How do we know to actually start charging them?” Keir asked.
Counc. Sharon Reichert at first questioned charging empty homes for services not being used, but later explained the logic behind doing so: “I (could) say I don’t want garbage pick-up anymore, but maybe once a month I sneak my garbage out there because I don’t have time to go to the dump.”
During the meeting, Rick Thompson noted that this year’s utilities revenues are approx. $13,000 higher than last year – what Keir noted is due to many people not paying for utilities before.
Thompson said he was confused and wanted more clarification from the garbage bylaw itself.
“What do we have written that clarifies that?” he asked.
Keir noted there were other problems with utilities fee charges – one business was paying far more than they should have; other properties were paying for sewer despite not having sewer hook-ups.
“Some people were being overcharged and some people were being undercharged.”
Keir says she has told anyone with complaints to write a letter to the Village so it can be officially documented.