Coun. Mitchell Tweel says city was wrong in not conveying that message from the beginning
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Residents in Charlottetown who have a water meter installed on their home will pay a fee, regardless of whether they use a drop of water.
Coun. Mitchell Tweel rose during the regular public monthly meeting on Monday night to ask questions about that fee, criticizing the city in an interview with The Guardian later about the fact the city hasn't released that information.
In response to questions from Tweel, Craig Walker, manager of the city's water and sewer utility, said that residents will pay $302 per year for the service. That fee breaks down to $116 for water and $186 for sewer.
Walker explained that there is a base/demand charge for the water meter and that even if not a drop of water is used the homeowner will be responsible for paying that bill. He also compared it to paying the electricity bill from Maritime Electric, saying that there is a base fee for that as well.
Tweel says he's not impressed that this message wasn't conveyed to the public.
"The whole philosophy behind the meters is user pay. You pay for how much water you use, that's the way it was sold to the residents in the city,'' Tweel said following the council meeting. "All the press releases that came out of City Hall, all the interviews that (the media) have done with the chair (of water and sewer) and anyone else discussing the issue of meters, not once were you told (about a base rate). If you do not use a drop of water whatsoever, whether to drink or bathe in it, you still have to pay for the meter on a monthly basis and the residents weren't told that.''
Tweel said he understands the message being conveyed was that meters will help conserve water but added that residents deserve the truth.
"You have to tell the whole story (and) that message was not conveyed to the community. The question I have is why, after 15 interviews and 25 press releases, was this information not conveyed to the community? I might add that (residents) never had an opportunity to discuss the issue, never had an opportunity to be consulted on it.''
The city will pay to have meters installed on homes. Any residents who volunteered for the program and paid the installation costs themselves will be reimbursed by the city.
The program is technically voluntary in that the city is only hooking up customers who ask for the meter. However, council has a resolution on the books making metering mandatory, saying that everyone has to be hooked up no later than Dec. 31, 2019.
Council decided in November to hold off on going into specific areas of the city. Although no one would say so on the record, there are some who were concerned about forcing water meters on residents ahead of the November 2014 civic election.