Shelburne water rate hearing postponed by review board

Greg Bennett
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A water rate hearing set for Wednesday for the Town of Shelburne has been rescheduled until Jan. 15 due to impending winter weather.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board was to consider proposed water rate hikes  after a recent water rate study showed that without major changes, the Town’s utility would be almost $1-million in debt within two years.

The increase would see the annual charge for an average household rise more than 70 per cent …from $820 to $1400 a year.

All municipal utilities in Nova Scotia are expected to operate self sufficiently. But without a major increase in rates, the water study painted a bleak fiscal picture for Shelburne’s water utility. That study, commissioned earlier this year and prepared by G.A. Isenor Consulting, recommended a series of rate increases over the next three years.

Increases in base charges and water usage charges ranging from 50 per cent to more than 70 per cent for all users would come into effect on Jan. 1.

Smaller rate increases would take place on April 1, 2014 and again in April 2015.

The utility posted a deficit of nearly $200,000 last year because water consumption has declined while still dealing with major debt servicing costs from the Water and Mowatt Street line extension project.

That 2011 water line extension could have potentially added 120 customers to the system. The project was initially launched based on projections that 84 new customers would hook up.

The tenders for the project came in far over budget, costs that were borne completely by the town utility.

Then, after the project was complete, efforts to convince new potential customers to hook up were a failure and as yet only 21 new users have been added because of the extension.

While there are hopes that rates can be decreased in the future if more large industrial customers come on board.

While the Town is expected to submit evidence, there are no public witnesses scheduled for the hearing.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Mowatt Street

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