Gas money, rate hikes fuel de­bate

The Glengarry News - - News - BY TARA MACDON­ALD News Staff

South Glen­garry Town­ship is slated to re­ceive $419,222 through the fed­eral Gas Tax Fund and can­di­dates are di­vided as to whether that money should help off­set ris­ing water rates in Glen Wal­ter, Lan­caster, and Green Val­ley.

While the funds could be put to­wards water and waste water projects, the money has tra­di­tion­ally gone to projects that ben­e­fit the en­tire mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Mayor-Elect Frank Prevost, who has been ac­claimed to his new po­si­tion, de­fends this prac­tice. “If it was put to­wards the water and sewer it would only ben­e­fit so many peo­ple in the town­ship and gas tax is to help all res­i­dents of the Town­ship. In my opin­ion it should be used to help cover the costs of our road sys­tem, bridges, ditch­ing and recre­ation.”

In June, the town­ship voted to in­crease the water rates to help pay for an up­grade to its 25-year-old water sys­tem. Glen Wal­ter res­i­dents will see their bills rise from $804 per year to $1,077.61 in 2018 and to $2,332 next year.

Lan­caster res­i­dents, cur­rently pay­ing $804 for their water and sewer, will see their bills rise to $1,105 this year and then $1,265 the fol­low­ing year to match sys­tem re­quire­ments.

Users in Green Val­ley and Kennedy Red­wood will also see in­creases, though nowhere near as ex­treme. In Green Val­ley, sewer users will see their fees jump from $435 to $505 in 2018 and then $575 the next year. There will be fur­ther two per cent in­creases in 2020 and 2021. For Kennedy Red­wood water users, the fee will jump from $1,016 to $1,077 this year and then $1,138 in 2019. There will be fur­ther two per cent in­creases in 2020 and 2021.

Mr. Prevost has said that when he is mayor, he would re­visit the is­sue should some­one at the coun­cil ta­ble wish to bring it up again.

De­pend­ing on who gets elected, that could very well hap­pen.

Over the past few months, Lan­caster res­i­dent Glenn Pat­ton, a coun­cil­lor can­di­date, has been ques­tion­ing the rate hikes, ar­gu­ing the Fund money should be used to re­duce the bur­den on af­fected com­mu­ni­ties. “If al­ready bud­geted else­where, then change it,” de­manded Mr. Pat­ton, adding that if his taxes can help build a fire hall in Glen Wal­ter or a bridge in Wil­liamstown, then it isn’t out of the or­di­nary to ask that taxes help pay for the water sys­tem too.

Mr. Pat­ton is not alone in his con­vic­tions. Fel­low coun­cil hope­fuls Hanz Schulz and Jo-Ann Pe­ri­ard agree.

“I am aware that some of the res­i­dents are fac­ing a sub­stan­tial in­crease in their rates,” says Mr. Schulz, a Mart­in­town res­i­dent. “The un­for­tu­nate fact is that with in­creased or man­dated ser­vices, costs will be in­curred and gen­er­ally will need to be borne by those who uti­lize those ser­vices.”

If elected, Mr. Schulz stated he would be will­ing to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing some of the Gas Tax Fund to help mit­i­gate the steep rate in­creases faced by some of the town­ship res­i­dents.

Ms. Pe­ri­ard says that coun­cil should have been charg­ing more for its water rates in or­der to build up for some­thing like this.

“It’s kind of like when you buy ap­pli­ances, you know you’re go­ing to have to re­place them,” she said. “So I think money should have been put aside for any in­fra costs that might arise over the years.”

Ms. Pe­ri­ard would con­sider putting a max­i­mum of $100,000 to- wards the water and sewage since Lan­caster, Glen Wal­ter and Green Val­ley make up a big por­tion of the town­ship. The rest of the fund­ing, said Ms. Pe­ri­ard, would be al­lot­ted to­wards in­fra­struc­ture ben­e­fit­ing the whole of the town­ship.

When asked why she be­lieved it was im­por­tant to ded­i­cate a por­tion of the gas tax fund to­wards the tar­geted water and waste water re­serves, Ms. Pe­ri­ard said that it would help the whole town­ship in the long run. “In Lan­caster for ex­am­ple, the water and sewage played a large role in get­ting the vil­lage go­ing again. In Glen Wal­ter there are now quite a few restau­rants so it helps the econ­omy of South Glen­garry as a whole.”

Coun­cil­lor can­di­date David Small also isn’t di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to us­ing the Gas Tax Fund to off­set costs, though he agrees with Ms. Pe­ri­ard that coun­cil should have been build­ing up re­serves for such a sit­u­a­tion.

“I would cer­tainly be will­ing to con­sider its use in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “I be­lieve neigh­bours want to help neigh­bours.”

How­ever, coun­cil mem­bers and coun­cil hope­fuls be­lieve the gas tax funds should go to in­fra­struc­ture as a whole.

Coun­cil­lor Trevor Bougie - the sole mem­ber of coun­cil to vote against the water and waste water hikes – dis­agrees with Mr. Pat­ton.

“I do not think the Gas Tax Fund should be used to­wards water and waste water sys­tems as it is sup­posed to be fully funded by the users of the sys­tem,” said Mr. Bougie. “I think the Gas Tax Fund should be used strictly for roads and bridges in the Town­ship.” Coun­cil­lor Bill MacKen­zie agrees. “I don’t be­lieve we should be giv­ing out money that can be used for the en­tire Town­ship to a par­tic­u­lar group of users… That’s not fair to the peo­ple who are not on the water and waste water sys­tem,” he said.

Coun­cil­lor Lyle War­den, cur­rently run­ning for Deputy-Mayor, com­mented: “Why would we use Gas Tax Fund money for water and sewer which ap­prox­i­mately 13 per cent of our res­i­dents use? For a per­son to think that Gas Tax, which is paid by us all, should be used for only a se­lect per­cent­age of ratepay­ers is crazy. I can’t see any elected mem­ber in South Glen­garry agree­ing to do so.”

Deputy Mayor can­di­date Jac­que­line Mil­ner says that “per­haps a per­cent­age” of the gas tax re­bate could be al­lo­cated to water/wastewater re­serves. She “hopes that the money would support in­fra­struc­ture projects that as­sist as many South Glen­garry cit­i­zens as pos­si­ble.”

Other coun­cil­lor can­di­dates of­fered their per­spec­tives.

Sam McDonell: “The Gas Tax is for use in trans­porta­tion as spec­i­fied by the gov­ern­ment. This mu­nic­i­pal­ity is pre­dom­i­nantly ru­ral and the funds are es­sen­tial to main­tain our road ways.”

Martin Lang: “At this point, I think the gas tax sys­tem should go to­wards every­one. I al­ways thought that the gas tax should go to­ward roads and bridges. Hav­ing learned more about it re­cently, I still be­lieve that here in South Glen­garry, the money should go to­wards roads and in­fra­struc­ture that ben­e­fit the whole town­ship.”

Stephanie Ja­worski: “Gas Tax Funds should be di­rected to projects that have a wider im­pact to the com­mu­nity at large.” Ex­am­ples of projects that would have wider im­pact in­clude im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity to recre­ation for both chil­dren and their fam­i­lies and the grow­ing numbers of ac­tive seniors.

Dun­can White­man: “I be­lieve it should be used for roads and bridges.”

Claude Bourcier: “I think we need to do an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I don't be­lieve what the town­ship is say­ing or that we even need money for re­serves. If it turns out that we do then I'd be will­ing to use a por­tion or all of the gas tax fund money to put to­wards the water /waste water re­serves.”

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