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Water rate hikes were necessary

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POSTED: February 7, 2011 10:50 p.m.

People seldom approve of increases. Increases in the cost of gas, increases in the number of passengers squeezed into a plane, increases in pant size – all of these things are typically frowned upon.
Unfortunately, many increases are simply necessary. No matter how much everyone disapproves, they are often unavoidable. Such is the situation with Richmond Hill’s water rates.
The city council has decided to double water rates over a period of three years to help pay for a $21 million rehab and expansion to its wastewater treatment plant. “Why not leave the plant like it is, and leave my rates alone?” you might ask. But if your septic system was backing up in your yard repeatedly, you probably wouldn’t put off getting that taken care of, would you?
Well, the city’s treatment plant, which includes acres of constructed wetlands near Sterling Creek, has been backing up in the yard, so to speak, for several years now. That doesn’t mean the unmentionables that flow from the pipes of household bathrooms to the plant are overflowing somewhere and making an awful mess no one wants to think of. What it means is the wetlands can’t process out all the chemicals before discharging seemingly clean water into the neighboring Elbow Creek.
The treatment plant has been operating at capacity for some time now, and the state – and city officials for that matter – don’t like it. With the plant already at capacity, and the chance of Richmond Hill’s population shrinking any time soon unlikely, city officials have little or no choice but to expand the plant. And if they didn’t decide to do it now, the state would eventually step in and decide to do it for them.
But Richmond Hill residents are lucky their water rates are as low as they are now – doubling them sounds like a lot, but at least you’re at a lower starting point than many other cities that have been in the same position. Imagine having a monthly water/sewer bill of $100 or so for a family of two like some other small cities along the East Coast.
City council members made a decision Tuesday that no one – probably not even themselves – will be happy with. However, it was really the only choice they had.

 

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