The estimated hike in water-and-sewer tariffs by 4.7% was to increase the average household bill by $61 a year, but the executive police committee decided to postpone it.
This decision was made on Tuesday at a meeting of the committee. The tariff increase aims to raise more money for costly upgrades at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre. The provincial Clean Environment Commission proposed it as part of the project on the city’s modernization of sewage and wastewater treatment plants in 2003. Modernization is necessary to preserve the ecology of Lake Winnipeg since phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater cause algae to multiply in it.
The total cost of the entire project, including works at the West End and South End plants, is estimated at $3-5 billion. Initially, it was assumed that the costs of the project will be divided between three levels of government: the city, the province and the federal. In practice, it turned out that Winnipeg took over most of the expenses, which caused an increase in water-and-sewer bills by an average of $800 for a family per year compared with 2004.
Now the city authorities of Winnipeg have decided not to make a new increase until they receive guarantees from the federal and provincial governments to participate in the financing of modernization projects.
"We really need certainty of funding commitments from both the federal and provincial governments on this, the biggest project in the City of Winnipeg's history," said St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham, city council's finance chair. "We need assurances, not assumptions but assurances, as to what funding levels they'll be contributing, if any."
The provincial government has announced that it is not yet able to provide a clear answer concerning funding.
"We have said that we remain committed to the project, but that it's premature to comment on funding levels," Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said in a statement. "Estimates continue to escalate and have more than doubled. Once [the] actual project scope is known, federal government funding levels will have to be fully explored. And before any of that can happen, the city needs to complete design work and submit a business case to both the federal and provincial governments."