ARICHAT: Several Richmond County residents could see their water rates rise over the next three years, if the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) approves the municipality’s new water rate study for the water treatment plant to be built to serve the Louisdale-Evanston-Whiteside area.

According to figures produced by Richmond County’s Public Works director, Chris Boudreau, the current average quarterly water rate of $65.66 would rise by 21 per cent to $79.62 during the 2016-17 fiscal year, before increasing a further 19 per cent to $94.75 in 2017-18 and climbing by 15 per cent to $109 by 2018-19.

In presenting this update to last week’s regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council, Boudreau pointed out that the rate study was primarily carried out due to the pending construction of a new water treatment plant to serve the Louisdale-Evanston-Whiteside region. However, he also pointed out that the municipality has not carried out a rate study for its water services since 2008, adding additional importance to this year’s process.

“You should really look at your water rates skeptically after four years,” Boudreau suggested.

“The county was due to have one done – generally, it wants to have one done every five years, but it’s been eight years since the last rate study.”

Shortly after confirming to Louisdale-area councillor Brian Marchand that the rates in question would apply to all residents on municipal water systems should they receive UARB approval, Boudreau was challenged on this assertion by St. Peter’s-area councillor Steve MacNeil.

“There seems to be a silent partner in all of this that hasn’t been discussed. We’re talking about a water rate study that will certainly have implications for Louisdale, Evanston and Whiteside, but the other big player in this game has been given no discussion whatsoever. We’re making a decision for the whole water utility, based on the needs of one community.

Is there any consideration given for the rest of the water utility?”

In response, Warden Victor David suggested that the municipality must adjust its water rates accordingly, given the lengthy period that followed the last Richmond County rate study.

“The UARB did spank us – they gave us quite a going,” David remarked.

“As far as I’m concerned, everybody in this area has been looked at. We’ve gone eight years without an increase and I looked at that and discussed that with our engineer this afternoon. For me, the numbers that came out are numbers that are going to be presentable. If we had a rate increase three years ago or five years ago, maybe it wouldn’t be as high now.”

In terms of Richmond’s overall water rate structure, Boudreau estimated that the county currently ranks tenth out of 50 Nova Scotia municipalities in terms of its average quarterly billing.