Rossland city council is having second thoughts about not using its water metering system.
The mayor has called for a special meeting with councillors July 4 to revisit the issue.
“I’m exercising one of my few executive powers,” said Mayor Kathy Moore, saying she can call on council to reconsider issues on matters that were passed in the previous 30 days.
At its June 12 meeting, councillors balked at a staff recommendation to spend more than $400,000 to upgrade the city’s existing water meters. Instead, council voted to return to a flat-rate system for charging residents for water use, and implement educational water conservation programs instead.
But at Monday night’s council meeting, residents came out to voice opposition to the idea of returning to a flat-rate.
“I think it is foolish to abandon water meters,”said Jill Spearn, a former city councillor. “I am in a home by myself at this point, and why should I pay for four or five or six people who waste water when I have changed my habits around water significantly? I don’t waste water. And yes, it should be user pay and there should be a reasonable base rate like we do now.”
“On a general basis you guys are making great decisions,” said Elise Pare, a local resident who works in municipal engineering. “But I really can’t support the decision you made last week to even consider getting rid of water meters, or not reading them, letting them fade away.”
“I really can’t stay quiet. I believe water meters are a very effective way of reducing water demand,” she says, adding council had to look at the operational benefits that come with water metering.
“Staff can use them to focus on leak detection. How to prioritize asset management plans. How to determine where you should be spending our precious resources in terms of finances.”
Pare said water meters are more than a “behavioural stick” for people who use too much water.
“You also have to understand the data water meters provide. You’ve already spent over a million dollars for this piece of data collection, and to go backwards at this time? It just blows my mind. And I cannot support it whatsoever. “
Other residents were more blunt on their assessment.
“That’s just bulls—t,” said resident Laura Petit, addressing council at the start of the meeting. “We spent so many years working on this, paying to put meters in, paying to read them, paying staff to figure it out. “
Mayor Moore told the presenters the move back to a flat rate is not a done deal.
“There’s no final decision… so this is good input,” she said. “We know people are passionate on either side. The intent of council was to continue to do water conservation, but maybe look at it a different way.
“But hold that thought. We’re not done with that decision by any stretch.”
The city’s residential water meters were installed in 2006-7, but haven’t worked properly in over a year. They’re supposed to record how much water a residence uses, then transmit the information by radio signal back to the city.
But the automated system failed last year, after FortisBC introduced its own radio-transmitting Smart Meters. Those devices use the same band width as the city water meters, rendering them useless.
With no real-time data to work from, the city’s been estimating resident’s water use from the 1,800 water meters in the system for the last year.