Property owners in southeast Kelowna shouldn’t be surprised to receive water bills of $6,500, city officials say.
But they acknowledge that the payment requests sent this week to nearly 2,000 households could have been worded differently and provided more explanation for the reasons for what appear to be surprisingly high charges.
“We probably could have communicated this better,” city utilities manager Kevin Van Vliet said in an interview Friday.
But, in fact, water charges are rising by less than $15 a year over what landowners in southeast Kelowna were paying, Van Vliet says.
The letter to the 1,950 homeowners says the city is “pleased to inform homeowners” that the integration of the former Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District into the municipal system is complete.
Then there is a mind-boggling demand for property owners to pay $6,500 immediately or accept their annual tax bill rising by just under $500 for each of the next 18 years.
“I didn’t expect that, did I? an area resident wrote on a Facebook page for southeast Kelowna residents.
“Holy shit! If I get something like this I will cry,” wrote another.
The city took over the SEKID system, which had been plagued with various operational problems for years, in a decision approved by the owners concerned, in 2017.
The integration of the two systems was costly and complex, involving among other things the laying of 82 kilometers of new pipes, the construction of three new reservoirs and the upgrading of three pumping stations.
The total cost of the project was nearly $100 million, with federal and provincial grants covering much of the expense. But the owners still had to pay part of the construction costs, about $15 million, Van Vliet says, and that message was constantly communicated to them.
A monthly project fee of $40 had been paid by former SEKID clients since 2018 and has so far raised $3 million.
But that charge was removed from their bills in January. The new $6,500 bill, representing annual payments of $493 for the next 18 years, represents the $16 million outstanding balance still owed by homeowners for water system integration.
“It’s really kind of a washout,” Van Vliet said. “Residents used to pay this water quality improvement fee of $40 a month, or $480 a year, but it’s gone now and they have the option of paying $492 a year for the next 18 years. »
Of course, the best financial option for homeowners who can afford it is to pay the full $6,500 bill now, because the option to add the charge to the annual property taxes would result in a total payment of nearly $9 $000.