This week, City Council received updates on the state of Ottawa’s major water infrastructure systems and the long-term plan to keep them in a state of good repair.
Council received an update on how the City maintains its drinking water, stormwater and wastewater assets, which have a replacement value of $21 billion and are in good to fair condition. Over the past 15 years, the City has renewed the wastewater and storm sewer networks in several neighbourhoods that had experienced flooding. None of those neighbourhoods have since experienced system-wide flooding.
To continue to maintain its water infrastructure in a state of good repair, the City will raise water, wastewater and stormwater rates by a combined average of 4.8 per cent over the next 10 years. This increase, explained in a report on the City’s Long Range Financial Plan, is lower than the average of 5.7 per cent forecast in the 2012 financial plan.
Council changed the 10-year financial strategy by reducing the planned increase to the new stormwater fee from a proposed 13 per cent in 2018 to five per cent, amending the planned stormwater work to $82.7 million in 2018, from $64 million in 2017. This reduction in stormwater revenue will reallocate $3.1 million of the proposed capital stormwater work for 2018 to be paid for through debt.
The five-per-cent stormwater increase will result in an average increase of $1.40 for rural not-connected households, $1.95 for urban not-connected households and $5.65 for urban and rural connected households. The planned investment in rural stormwater facilities will increase from a five-year average of $9.4 million to $12.6 million in 2018, an increased investment of 34 per cent.
Council also directed staff to review the longer-term strategies for rate-supported programs and to strive for long-term affordability and predictability in rate increases. Staff will report back to Committee and Council early in the next Term of Council.
Council received a report on the City’s drinking water that says Ottawa continues to deliver some of the highest quality and safest drinking water in the world. For the fifth year in a row, a third-party accreditation body rated the City’s drinking water systems as 100 per cent in conformance with the quality management system. By adopting new procedures, the City has also decreased the amount of time residents are without water service during watermain breaks.
Despite increasing levels of nitrates in the Shadow Ridge well system in Greely, water from the well system is still safe to drink and well within safe drinking water standards. The City is planning to drill into a deeper aquifer to provide a new source well for the Shadow Ridge water system.
Council approved a plan to implement a new Early Years system in Ottawa as the Government of Ontario boosts funding for the service. The provincial government is merging four provincially funded Early Years programs into a unified system called the Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres. The service will be implemented by Jan. 1, 2018 and managed by municipalities. The new system will be easier to navigate and access for parents and caregivers and will provide consistent Early Years programming.
The provincial government is increasing funding to implement the new system, providing $9.6 million to Ottawa in 2018, $2.9 million more than in 2017. Early Years services include playgroups, workshops, pre/post-natal supports and information and referral services that benefit children from infancy to age six, their parents and caregivers, reaching an estimated 27,000 children a year in Ottawa.
Under the approved plan, there will be a one-year transition period for 2018. During this time, existing service providers will have their funding extended as the City analyses data about needs, continues discussion with community groups and puts management and policy into place.
The addition of 354 properties to Ottawa’s Heritage Register was approved by Council. All properties are located in the neighbourhoods of Old Ottawa East and Old Ottawa South.
City Heritage staff are completing the Heritage Inventory Project: an inventory of all properties across Ottawa that have cultural heritage value. This is the second group, following the 237 properties within Lowertown and Sandy Hill that were added in April. Owners of properties on the Register must give the City 60 days’ notice of any demolition, but are still free to undertake alterations.
Council approved a new sponsorship agreement with Meridian Credit Union, the largest credit union in Ontario. Under the agreement, Meridian will pay the City of Ottawa $975,000 over the next 15 years to have its name used for the Centrepointe theatres, which will be named the Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe. Of the funds provided, $200,000 will be dedicated to capital and operating improvements at the theatres and the rest of the money will support City programs and services.