December 05, 2013 - 10:58 AM
PENTICTON - Higher power rates is what's needed for the city-owned electric utility to stay in business Mayor Garry Litke said.
The mayor appeared annoyed with arguments at Monday's council meeting the city could run its utility near or at a loss. There were concerns about higher power rates hurting people on fixed incomes or those earning low incomes.
"If we are not going to operate this business so it sustains itself then we might as well sell it," Litke said. A few councilors appeared to agree with him and voted to increase the residential power rates by 4.03 per cent. The other two options were a 3.28 or a 4.78 per cent rate increase.
The rate increases, which still need to be adopted in January before taking effect in February, will help pay for more than $4 million in upgrades to the city's electrical network. Litke said the upgrades are needed to prevent power outages and provide a better service.
Coun. Wesley Hopkin wanted the lowest rate and argued the utility could pay for itself and be more affordable for low to fixed incomes. Coun. John Vassilaki wanted an even lower bill and said the city could cut $500,000 out of its capital budget to make up the difference.
"How long can the citizens of Penticton endure these kinds of costs?" Vassilaki asked and added the city is picking its citizens' pockets.
"I take offence at the suggestion that anyone is picking the pocket of taxpayers," Coun. Katie Robinson said.
Counc. Robinson also said the city runs a tight ship and taxes and spends responsibly.
Litke said Vassilaki was breaking council meeting rules and the city already held its capital budget meeting on Friday. The mayor would be happy to revisit the capital budget again, if council wished, but it was improper for Vassilaki to bring suggestions of capital budget changes at Monday's council meeting.
Hopkin said it is irresponsible to take $500,000 out of capital without discussing the matter at the appropriate meeting.
"Anyone who thinks the city is not doing a very good job in protecting the citizens... is very badly mistaken," Hopkin said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013