Oro-Medonte residents want council to tackle high water bills

·3 min read

Sonia Faryna and her husband thought they’d save money on their monthly bills by moving to Oro-Medonte five years ago.

“We knew the property taxes were going to be lower, but then we got the water bill,” said Faryna from her home in Horseshoe Valley, March 11.

Faryna, vice-president of the Horseshoe Valley Property Owners’ Association (HVPOA), says she pays approximately $534 every quarter for water and wastewater. That runs to more than $2,100 per year.

To further muddy the waters, her quarterly invoice like others in the Line 3 North area of Horseshoe Valley is handled through the township, which has a billing agreement with Skyline Water and Wastewater.

A few years ago, the HVPOA, which is comprised of Horseshoe Valley homeowners, watched the wastewater portion of their bills jump from an original $210 per quarter to $381 between 2016-2018.

With the municipality’s involvement, it has dropped to around $314 per quarter per household, and it was that small line in the budget that caught Counc. Shawn Scott’s eye during budget negotiations in mid-February.

“And I think my quote was, ‘while this arrangement may have been appropriate at the time, does it still provide benefit and value to the municipality?’,” Scott said.

He asked to have a report back from staff to provide a historical explanation on the water works situation in the Horseshoe Valley neighbourhood.

“Everyone should realize Mayor Harry Hughes and Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough both have well over a decade of experience dealing with the matter, whereas the rest of council, we all have less than 2.5 years and Coun. DeSousa has one year,” he explained.

The request for a report raised some eyebrows at the March 10 council meeting.

Counc. Ian Veitch doesn’t want another analysis of the system that’s been running smoothly for the past five years, especially during COVID-19 when staff’s duties are extended.

“It didn’t seem like an urgent matter with everything else we’re doing because there’s been no issues that I have seen in the last little while. I think it’s really saying ‘why now?’,” he said.

Veitch said the Skyline partnership is easily understood without a report from staff.

“We’re really just making sure we keep our municipal control of the billing that we do for Skyline, who’s our private sector service provider,” Veitch said. “The reason really is, we want to keep a municipally owned and operated or at least a controlled system so that we can ensure we have oversight and security of our water system. So the billing is accurate and fair for our constituents and it allows us to be confident that the numbers we use for billing our residents are in place and they’re in place fairly.”

As for historical data, the HVPOA has reams of it, said association president Linda Myles.

“All the information is easily available to council,” she said “There’s lots of people in our community who’ve done extensive research (on water rates).”

As for Faryna, she appreciates the municipality’s involvement in the water billing.

“When they (municipality) got into doing the billings and got into an agreement (with Skyline) everybody feels more comfortable with the government involved,” Faryna said.

Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance