City’s water and sewer fees set to rise again this year

Water and sewer fees will likely rise this year for Whitehorse residents as a result of additional pump houses in the Whistle Bend subdivision, as well as incomplete work at a pump station in Riverdale.

Water and sewer fees will likely rise this year for Whitehorse residents as a result of additional pump houses in the Whistle Bend subdivision, as well as incomplete work at a pump station in Riverdale.

City officials say there is a $774,743 deficit in its water and sewer services as a result of the extra infrastructure, and they are dipping into the water and sewer reserve to fund the cost.

As it stands that monthly fee is $73, having already risen by 6.3 per cent in the 2015 operating budget.

Acting city manager Mike Gau said phases one and two of Whistle Bend development were “really front-end heavy,” as major pump houses were required to be put into place.

The buildings are brand new and an improvement over older ones used elsewhere in the city, he said.

Experts in the utility department had to take part in additional training sessions and participate in the hand-off of infrastructure from the Yukon government, Gau said.

That meant additional staff costs of $205,000, materials costs of $106,000 and “other service costs” of $72,000, according to an administration report.

“The thing to remember is that we could have budgeted for this in 2014 but the fees for that year would have been higher,” Gau said.

“Utilities are a cost recovery department. It’s a big hit in one year but the good news is that we don’t anticipate the same scenario happening this year.

“Some of these things still require extra work, like the Selkirk pump house, which is an ongoing thing until it’s fully completed.”

In September 2011, Dowland Contracting was hired as the general contractor to replace the pump station, located in Riverdale.

The $5 million project was supposed to be done in a year but problems surfaced as soon as the work started.

In April 2013, Dowland told the city it was no longer able to complete the project. The company Dowland went into receivership a month later and the city sued the company – as well as an insurance company – earlier this year over the delays.

Dave Albisser, the city’s manager of water and waste services, said the department is now analyzing what the increase in costs would mean to ratepayers.

“The main thing we need to do is make sure we have a sustainable set-up,” he said.

“Any time we have overages we need to assess why that’s happening. This was a short-term blip in costs due to an overwhelming number of new infrastructure items being taken over, so you see a spike.”

There are additional costs to building out further away from town, Albisser said.

“You’re pumping the water further out, collecting, and pumping it further back,” he said, “whereas downtown the wells, supply and discharge points are close.”

Gau said he believes the amount of funds in the city’s overall reserves have increased over the years despite the deficit.

The water and sewer reserve was at $6.3 million by the end of 2014, Albisser said. And overall, the city’s reserves increased by $1.3 million from 2013 to 2014, going from $26.3 million to $27.7 million.

“In one area we’re down but in others we’re up,” Gau said.

“We’re still in a very good financial position. This is one of the utilities that’s hard to hit dead-on because the variables are high.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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