Alberni mulls reducing seniors utility bills

A request to reduce seniors’ municipal utility bills is being vaulted to the city’s of Alberni's budget discussions next year.

A request to reduce seniors’ municipal utility bills is being vaulted to the city’s budget discussions next year.

The proposal  came from Alberni resident Kay Rolls, who wrote the city engineering department posing the idea of a reduction.The decrease would be to the fixed costs of water, sewer and garbage and not to the consumption fee, Rolls suggested.

Pensioners have had a rough ride of it lately, she said. They’ve lost or seen reductions in some benefits while others have seen their benefits clawed back. As well, many seniors go to live in warmer climates for the winter and don’t use their utilities.

Port Alberni is attracting new retirees, and many others choose to remain in the Valley after they retired, Rolls said.

The city reduced the tax rate for Catalyst Paper when they needed it and now they should afford seniors the same courtesy, she said.

Residents are charged various rates for utilities, assistant finance manager Dianne Kosh said.

Garbage fees are based on container size. A flat rate is charged for water meters, and further charges are based on consumption. And a flat rate for sewer services is charged for residential dwellings, while other  users are charged according to consumption.

The idea is abstract and deserves to be fleshed out during the city’s budget discussions next year, said Coun. Hira Chopra.“I’m not sure how many seniors this will involve or how much this will cost,” Chopra said. “I just want to know: can we afford or can we not afford it?”

Coun. Cindy Solda spoke against the initiative, saying the city should in fact be moving the rate up. There are working poor in the Valley barely making it, and they should have their rates reduced. “There’s already so many people in the community who can’t afford it…if we do this for seniors then we should do this for low income people too,” Solda said.

The working poor or those who are out of work who own a home should be considered, Coun. Jack McLeman said. “A lot of jobs have gone south. Those are the people who need a break,” he said.

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