Moose Jaw, Sask. to decide on water main referendum

Click to play video: 'Looking ahead at the Moose Jaw, Sask. water main referendum'
Looking ahead at the Moose Jaw, Sask. water main referendum
WATCH ABOVE: On Oct. 26, the City of Moose jaw will vote on how it will pay to replace 80 kilometres worth of rusted water mains. Residents will be asked if they want to replace a payment plan that would see home owners pay 30 per cent of the repair costs. David Baxter has more – Sep 27, 2016

Dave Molesky’s home and business, Grand Valley Press, are in the area of Moose Jaw that will be undergoing a replacement of century-old cast iron water mains.

Earlier this year, Moose Jaw City council approved a Local Improvement Program (LIP) funding model to pay for the replacement.

Molesky is anticipating bills over $7,000 for both his properties.

“We’re being asked to pay for what effectively is the city’s maintenance item,” he said.

“We really get no benefit from it, so I don’t even know how this thing can be legal when you stop and think about it.”

Through LIP, the city pays 70 per cent of the water main replacement cost, and homeowners pay 30 per cent. They can either pay a lump sum, or add it to their property tax for 20 years with a four per cent interest rate.

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This funding model has been a long running issue in the Friendly City, and on October 26 residents will vote on whether or not to continue using it.

Citizens Advocating Sensible Taxation (CAST) has driven the opposition to LIP, and their petition triggered this referendum.

READ MORE: Moose Jaw water main referendum petition surpasses signature goal

CAST member and city council candidate Terry Gabel told Global News that CAST will launch its information campaign on October 1.

“Hopefully we’ll [have] our information organized and start gathering volunteers to get the information out,” he said.

Gabel said they need volunteers to distribute leaflets around the city. The campaign launch will take place at the intersection of Main and Hochelaga Street.

In neighbourhoods that don’t need water main replacements, some people like Drew Campbell have a different view.

“I feel if you don’t have to pay for cast iron, I don’t feel like you should be paying,” he explained.

“The city takes care of their side of the street and if you need utilities brought into your own house that should be out of your own pocket.”

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Mayor Deb Higgins voted in favour of LIP at city council and continues to advocate for it as she seeks re-election.

She said she’s in favour of LIP because it allows the city to address more issues than just the water mains, like lead water lines.

“We’ve got a pretty substantial amount of lead lines still in the city of Moose Jaw. They have to be looked after, they have to be changed,” she explained.

“Health concerns are out there, and they need to be addressed. LIP did that for us.”

Spreading Information

The City of Moose Jaw will be advertising for the referendum over the next month. City manager Matt Noble said they’ve worked with consultants to come up with ways to advertise both options.

“Our strategy is to publish factual information, and not to advocate one way or another,” he said.

Noble said city administration is in the process of granting final approval to info-graphics that will go over the financial implications of using a LIP funding model or paying water main replacement out of general revenue.

The info-graphics will include an email address and phone numbers so people can reach out if they have questions on the information provided.

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“If people still have trouble understanding, they’ll be able to phone those numbers, or send an email and we’ll respond to them,” Noble said.

Currently, the city estimates homeowners impacted by LIP will pay about $557 per frontage metre of their property. Someone who paid $2,000 in property tax before LIP would likely see a $180 increase.

If the city uses general revenue to pay for the replacement, it would mean an additional seven per cent would need to be added to property taxes. A person who pays $2,000 in property tax would likely see a $320 increase instead of $180, according to Noble.

Noble said some costs of the replacement have already been factored into past tax increases and water rates.

The referendum takes place on October 26, alongside the civic election.

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