No more Mr. Nice Guy...no, really: City promises yet again to enforce water meters

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
May 27th, 2010

Eight years after bylaws were put in place requiring commercial and multi-family buildings in Rossland to install water meters, the city is done asking politely for compliance. Following council approval of the recommendation this past Tuesday night, city staff will be contacting the remaining commercial building owners without water meters, entering the premises, installing water meters and handing building owners the bill.

“I certainly think it’s high time that all of our commercial and multi-family have water meters installed,” commented Councillor Laurie Charlton. “The bylaw has been in place for long enough now that there has been plenty of opportunity to have the meters installed.”

In August, 2008, with 29 commercial buildings in town still without meters, the city sent letters out to owners requesting that they have water meters installed within 60 days. Following up in March of 2009, the city again sent letters to unmetered commercial building owners warning that if not installed by June 2009 the city would enter their property, install the meters and charge them for it. June 2009 came and passed and yet still a number of commercial buildings remained without water meters.

Following up yet again in November of 2009, the city issued more letters, this time stepping up the rhetoric and stating that if not installed by June 2010, the city would shut off water to the properties in question.

During that time frame a number of commercial building owners did have water meters installed or arranged to have them installed. One of the issues slowing down the process was a simple lack of plumbing contractor man hours to do the job. Some buildings have purchased water meters from the city, but are still waiting for plumbers to install them.

Of the initial 29 properties identified in 2008, nine have still not made any arrangements (known to the city) to install meters.

With the June 1st 2010 date for water shut off enforcement fast approaching, council addressed the issue at their May 25th regular meeting. As it turns out, there are a number of complications to simply shutting off the water to a non-compliant building. First it is illegal for the city to shut off water to any building that also contains residential units. In addition, if a business has a washroom facility and the water is shut off, the building inspector is required to post a ‘No occupancy’ notice on the premises.

With those complications in mind, entering buildings, installing meters and charging the owners for the work became the preferred and recommended option from city staff. Council unanimously supported this move. 

“I agree that it’s high time for action on this matter,” said Councillor Kathy Wallace. “The other option of shutting off water; I can’t support it. It is counterproductive to relationships between businesses and the City. This is a better approach. It may alleviate scheduling issues with plumbers to get the job done as well.” 

One issue brought up by Charlton during discussion on the issue was that the City has been talking the talk on water meters for the better part of a decade but may not necessarily have been walking the walk. 

“How can we force business owners to install water meters when the City doesn’t even have water meters in all of our facilities and properties? In particular, what about our parks which are huge consumers of water in the summer? If we are going to meter all of the properties in Rossland and start enforcing it, then the city needs to set an example. I think [meters] are in all of our buildings, but I am not certain. I don’t think we have any meters installed in parks around town.”

In fact, all city owned-buildings currently have water meters. The library (which just recently came under the city’s control) and Golden Bear daycare buildings could not be confirmed by press time but were believed to be on meters. The city parks have not yet been metered; however, a plan is in place to undertake that work this summer. As perhaps the largest water users in town, the City is anxious to get the parks on meters so they can learn just how much water is being used there.

Eight years after the bylaw was put in place, the city is now taking bolder steps to achieve their goals of first finding out just how much water is used in town and secondly to work on reducing that number and conserving our water supply. Do you agree with the city’s new tactics to get water meters installed? Post a comment and/or see this week’s poll.

Categories: Politics

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