The Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce is worried council is unfairly targeting business with their new tiered water billing system.
Executive director Kim Burden addressed council on their recent consideration of delaying increases to residential customers because of an impressive 23 per cent drop in consumption last year, while going ahead with commercial rate increases.
“This recommendation assumes there’s overuse in the commercial sector,” Burden said, suggesting commercial users showed “less change because they were already conserving water.”
He said that while there was a big increase in commercial use in 2009 due to new resorts opening, that has come back down and is now the same as it was five years ago, despite growth.
He pointed out the city’s successful AquaStar awareness program is only aimed at residents and businesses that have been doing everything they can to decrease water use in recent years as a matter of good business practice since water is an expense.
“To assume commercial properties are overusing water is based on untested assumptions,” he said, making it clear the business community is not asking for an outright decrease but wants council to consider a fair and equitable approach to billing.
Under the old system, residents paid a minimum $143 for 112 cubic meters (112,000 litres) per semi-annual bill.
The current system dropped the base charge to $85.50 for 60 cubic metres, plus an additional $1.34 per cubic metre from 60 to 100, $3 per cubic metre from 100 to 150, and $4.60 per cubic metres over 150 per bill.
That’s equivalent to 391 litres per person per day, compared to the 329 litre Canadian average.
The commercial structure is similar with higher tiers, starting at a base allotment of 100 cubic metres, with tier two kicking in at 2,500, followed by 7,000 and 13,000 cubic metres.
Burden pointed to the example of Black and White Party Rentals, with owner Dave Willie in the gallery, which has expanded considerably in the last five years. He said while they use 65 per cent more water, they are bringing a lot of new business into town and using all the latest conservation practices and technology.
“This increase isn’t a problem, it’s a benefit to Parksville,” Burden said, clarifying they are just looking for an equitable split of any increasing costs with the residents.
“We’re not water abusers.”
Acting mayor Chris Burger said they are looking to find the right balance in the still-new, tiered system.
Councillor Marc Lefebvre suggested council and city staff meet with the chamber to see what they could do to help sort out the perceived imbalance.
“It’s not only what you can do for us, but what we can do for you,” Burden said, agreeing to arrange a meeting.