AMHERST - An ongoing water dispute between Amherst and Cumberland County will be renewed next week when the county appears before a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing on the town's plan to increase water rates.
The county's director of public works, Robert Streatch, confirmed Wednesday the county has requested intervenor status with the utility and review board and its main focus will be on an Amherst plan to increase the amount of money it receives from the county for approximately 30 hydrants outside the town.
"We're concerned about the hydrant charges. We signed a fire protection agreement with the town about a year-and-a-half ago and it was supposed to be all-inclusive. Now they're trying to include all the fire hydrants in the county," Streatch said. "You're talking about an extra $40,000 a year."
Streatch is concerned the town's prposal goes against the spirit of the fire protection agreement. He's also concerned with how the town is defining the hydrants, pointing out that many of the hydrants can't be used for fire protection.
"It's our understanding that some of the hydrants weren't designed for fire protection but for flushing purposes and air release, but the town is introducing all hydrants within the county geographically," he said. "We don't know why all this is happening."
The county, he added, has other concerns with the town's water utility and hopes to introduce the long-standing water dispute between the two municipalities to the UARB.
The utility and review board has scheduled a day for the hearing on Tuesday beginning at 11 a.m. at the Amherst Fire Department.
In November, Amherst accepted a water rate study from W.H. Gates Utility Consulting that is proposing raising water rates for most residential customers by 5.9 per cent in 2010-11, 5.5 per cent in 2011-12 and 4.3 per cent in 2012-13. It would amount to about $3 a quarter on the water bill, or $1 a month.
In the report to council, consultant Gerry Isenor suggested fire protection rates should be shared between the town and the county based on the number of hydrants in each jurisdiction.
Amherst's CAO Greg Herrett said he's aware of the county's position but declined comment until the hearing.