Stormwater-Managementtly Fee Report Received Quietly in Cobourg

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
While Cobourg’s stormwater-management fees have so often provoked outrage before, spectators gathered in the gallery at council’s Public Works, Planning and Development Committee meeting for June declined the opportunity to present to the committee as it received the report Director of Public Works Laurie Wills prepared on the plan prepared by Watson & Associates Ltd. for a new method of assessing fees.

As opposed to the current system of assessing fees based on the area of property owned, two options have been developed for consideration by the full council complement at their June 26 meeting:

Option A is a 10-acre cap on chargeable land area per property for vacant and medium- and low-density properties, as well as a lesser rate for land area greater than one acres (up to 10 acres)

Option B is a flat rate for all properties up to one acre, with additional charges for land area in excess of one acre on commercial, industrial and institutional properties.

Council direction will also be required on which option to implement as well as on which of two options on how charges to date are to be reconciled.

Option 1 is the retroactive collecting or crediting accounts the difference in rates for all or any amount of time since the programs inception on Jan. 1.

Option 2 is simply to begin the new fee schedule as of July 1.

Wills described the “sustainable-funded approach” they are trying to achieve, similar to the kind of water and wastewater rates many municipalities instituted in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy in 2002.

Stormwater must be collected, and the water has to be treated to ensure it does not taint the waterways into which it is discharged – the waterways from which the town’s drinking water is drawn.

This requires such infrastructure as pipes, manholes, treatment plants and pumper stations, “so we can live comfortably, not worrying about these services.”

The argument has come from people who do not benefit from stormwater management that they shouldn’t be paying these fees. But the very nature of taxation is that it provides services for all.

Even if you never skate, your taxes support the Cobourg Community Centre. Even if all your children are grown, your provincial taxes still support the school system. And if your house should catch on fire, you will be glad your taxes have supported the local fire department.

No matter how fees are assessed, Wills said, the amount brought in must be sufficient to sustain the infrastructure, and make replacements and upgrades when needed.

“I think this is the kind of good governance we need,” Mayor Lucas Cleveland declared.

“Not only are we trying to take the initiative, but also accepting that we make mistakes. We need to look at those mistakes, reflect upon them, and admit we can do better,”

“We are looking at this from every angle and trying to be as fair as possible,” Committee Chair Brian Darling agreed.

“As a council, we are not going to keep everyone 100% happy. We are looking at it and, hopefully June 26, will answer a lot of our questions.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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