An Ilderton resident is calling out Middlesex Centre Council, after discovering his water and sewer bill is two and a half times higher than what people in nearby Lucan are paying.
Homeowners are paying hundreds in surcharges on top of annual increases so the municipality can build up a provincially-mandated reserve for water and sewer emergencies.
With no major industrial customers located in Middlesex Centre, the burden falls solely on ratepayers like Gus Bilotta.
“Middlesex Centre is becoming ‘utility poor’ between the price of electricity and the water rates we’re paying,” he said. “It’s not sustainable anymore, it’s becoming unaffordable. They want to attract young families to this community but I don’t see how they can do that with the utility rates that we’re paying here.”
Since starting a Facebook page to raise awareness about the situation, his bi-monthly water and sewer bill has climbed to roughly $650.
“I did a straight up comparison with the exact usage I had for those two months with London and Lucan,” Bilotta said. “If I were in Lucan for that same water bill and the same usage, I would have paid $250 for that two month period. That’s $400 more than I paid here in Ilderton. In London, I would have paid half the amount.”
Middlesex Centre manages a collection of small water systems that are spread out, rather than operating one large system. There’s only 3,300 ratepayers in Middlesex Centre, and with no major industry, households constitute 99% of all the cost for water and sewer.
Surcharges start at $100 bi-monthly, and increase depending on the size of the home.
Bilotta wants the surcharge tacked onto property taxes, since rural homeowners who still use well-water or septic tanks have essentially been exempt from paying the surcharges.
“Their feeling is ‘why should we pay into a system we don’t use?’ however we are a community that is growing and thriving so we believe that the burden should be shared among all residents, regardless of whether they’re on well, septic, or municipal sewer and water, and that levy should be on our property taxes,” he said. “In other words, all of us would be paying a smaller amount towards the benefit of the community.”
Bilotta is also criticizing Middlesex Centre Council for not involving the public in the decision-making process like Oxford County did.
“They [Oxford County officials] state that ‘yes, we’ve had to raise our water and waste water rates but we did so after public consultation, townhalls, and resident consultations,'” he said. “There was nothing of the sort here in Middlesex Centre. Everything was done behind closed doors, outside of public consultation, and that seems to be the norm with this Council, regardless of the decision they make.”
Unless there’s an influx of new residents or industry, municipal officials estimate they won’t raise the needed reserve funds until at least 2025.
“How are you going to attract young families or businesses when the rates are so high?” Bilotta questioned.