Town says education key to lift station problems
The Town of Bay Roberts is streamlining a part of its tax collection policy.
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
Bay Roberts director of public works Sean Elms brought along these samples to council on Jan. 28. They show what town employees have been pulling out of lift stations in recent weeks.
This is after a change to the number of notices given to delinquents was approved at the town’s regular council meeting on Jan. 28.
The tax collection policy drops its number of formal notices from three to two. Prior to the change, Bay Roberts sends out quarterly notices to all of its residents, along with notices to especially strong offenders.
“The auditor has said it is something we should pay more attention to,” said chief administrative officer Nigel Black. “We tried to devise a policy that is trimmed down as much as we could because we do have limited staff and ability to try and collect.”
He said the change in policy would not require the hiring of additional personnel at this time, although it was not ruled out.
“That is an option as well,” said Black.
The changes work like this.
Those who have not paid would receive a 30-day notice, followed by a 10-day notice and then final notice.
At that point, the town would be free to cut off certain services supplied to those in arrears.
This accepted change eliminates the 10-day notice.
Black said the change was made in an effort to “simplify” the collection process.
“It’s an attempt to make it more efficient,” he said.
This is not the first time, Bay Roberts has targeted tax delinquents.
In January 2012, the town instigated a policy that would see it collect two per cent interest per month on outstanding balances. That started in July of the same year.
“About two years ago, we started a policy, and we did have a lot of success collecting,” said Mayor Philip Wood. “Even if you have 95 per cent of your people paying, which is good, there is still five per cent. The five per cent over 20 and 30 years adds up.”
As it stands, the town is owed an accumulative $1 million in back taxes.
Wood estimated the town’s collection rate stands between 90 and 95 per cent during the meeting.
“Still that, five or 10 per cent does not be long adding up,” he said.
“It’s a substantial amount of money at the end of the day,” added Black.
Lift station problems
The town has been experiencing problems with its lift stations.
Along with residents that have had trouble with their systems being backed up, the town has been pulling loads of troublesome items from its stations.
At the meeting, director of public works Sean Elms brought along three clear plastic bags. Each was filled with items flushed down toilets by residents. They included dishcloths, Swiffer pads, paper towels, gloves, mop heads and other materials that are not meant to enter the town’s water system.
“Only toilet paper should be flushed,” he said.
When these small objects are put into the system, they cause major headaches for Elms and his crews he explained.
As these materials are flushed, it starts to build up and begins to clog the pumps at lift stations.
Elms said if one pump becomes clogged it starts a chain reaction along the line and causes other pumps to clog.
“This is what’s in our sewers. This is what’s costing us thousands and thousands of extra dollars to get cleared,” he said.
Clearing the system
It is not just discarded items causing problems at lift stations in the communities, especially in recent weeks.
The Conception Bay North region has experienced periods of heavy rain. This has caused some residents who have submersible pumps to direct water into the town’s sanitary sewer.
“I was looking at a lift station, and we had it open and were cleaning it and all of the water coming into it was completely clear,” said Elms. “Way back when I guess, it was okay for people to hook up their weeping tile and their sub pumps and put it into your sanitary sewer.
“That’s not a good thing because it fills our sanitary sewer.”
At this particular lift station, the town had three vacuum trucks working at the same time to clear the water and it did very little to reduce levels.
The council agreed that education is a part of the issue, as well as the size of the pumps found at stations.
“I feel that we need to get the word out (on materials),” said Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman.
Black said the town is completing a feasibility study into purchasing larger pumps.
The town is waiting on word from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the status of two projects.
One being the gut in Long Pond on Gulley Road in Coley's Point. A resident has expressed concern about potential flooding because of its widening. The town needs a permit from DFO to complete the work necessary to address these concerns.
The other project pertains to Rocky Pond. Residents are concerned with the water levels there.
The town is looking at reopening the brook running between Rockey Pond and Beaver Pond, and would need permission from DFO before starting the work.
Bay Roberts has started the year strong in the residential housing department.
Council has approved three new building applications in 2014.