Settle water fight once and for all

Staff ~ The Amherst Daily News
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When Amherst goes before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board on Tuesday to state its case for increase water rates it will be suggesting a slight increase is needed so its water utility doesn't go back into debt. Without the increase, that amounts to about $1 a month or most residential customers, the utility's deficit could balloon to $1.27 million by 2013.
As much as simple math shows a rate increase is in the cards, and it would probably be a huge surprise if the utility and review board doesn't agree, what should be interesting is how the long-standing disagreement the town and the county have over water services is played out.
The county is opposed to the town's plan because, among other things, it proposes increasing the cost for fire hydrants in the county by $40,000. Since the county operates most services on a user-pay basis, that could mean a significant sum of money for those people lucky enough to have town water. At the same time, people in these areas will have no say in this cost.
There's no telling if the town is right or the county is right on this subject, but it shows that as much as the two municipal units try to increase co-operation there are some issues that continue to drive a huge wedge in their relations.
From the town's point of view, extending water services further into the county would only encourage more residential development outside Amherst's boundaries - subtracting from the town's tax base. To the county, the water comes from the county, runs through the county to the town and should be available to the county.
In the end, the two are going to have to agree to disagree, but the fact the division has shown its face again is only going to give more ammunition to those pushing for amalgamation either voluntarily or through government action.
Instead of fighting it out in a very public forum, it may be time for councillors in both areas to settle this water issue once and for all before someone settles it for them. Neither side may get everything it wants, but both will get something.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Amherst

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