Sewer fees in Kamloops likely to rise

Biosolids management cited as a 15 per cent hike — about $54 per average-assessed home — is possible

A proposed utility rate increase is the result of increasing costs to manage biosolids in Kamloops due to public opposition of land-based application.

City staff outlined a proposed utility rate increase on Tuesday during budget talks.

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During early stages, sewer rates emerged as the lone utility expected to hit taxpayer wallets in 2019, jumping 15 per cent, or about $54 for the average-assessed household. 

“We’re just finding that the costs of biosolids management has risen, even over the course of the last year,” city utility services manager Greg Wightman told reporters.

“A lot of public opposition to biosolids in Kamloops, companies are well aware of that. They know what they’re getting into when they come to this community, so you have to have a very costly process in place to ensure you have addressed all of the concerns of the public.”

The city’s sewer utility budget is expected to increase by about $3 million next year, with operating costs of $2.6 million estimated to make up the bulk of the hike.

Wightman said that figure is based on industry standards.

The city is negotiating a request for proposals to address biosolids in the short-term, while it undergoes long-term planning.

Last year, Sylvis managed the city’s biosolids, including its stockpile and ongoing daily production.

Residents previously voiced opposition over smell and concern about unknown impacts of spreading the city’s sewage sludge on land. Wightman said the challenge is that 94 per cent of biosolids management in B.C. is land-based.

He said the city battles misconceptions related to “perceived concerns” and said land-based application is a great resource when used correctly. Composting is a possible short-term option.

“Through this negotiated request for proposal, we’re just looking at more communication, more consultation with the public, that sort of stuff, in the short term,” Wightman said.

“In the long term, again ,we’re still in the trenches of our long-term planning. So, at this stage, we don’t really know where we’re going with that, other than looking at all of these technologies from around the world and what’s viable.”

Wightman said the city is also planning for future capital. He said the city’s eventual biosolids plan is going to result in some kind of capital funding.

The proposed property tax increase in 2019 is 3.4 per cent.

Add in the utility increase and residents are looking at about a four per cent increase next year.

The rates could be impacted by growth and BC. Assessment data.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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