Council takes issue with additional inspection fees
Algonquin Highlands councillors are taking exception to additional fees that are to be charged to residents who have their mandatory septic system inspections performed by a third party under new, mandatory septic inspection program.
The township has hired firm WSP Canada to conduct the lid-off inspections, which are scheduled to begin this year. In a cost-recovery model to cover the almost $1 million contract, residents will each be charged just less than $180 for their inspections.
During numerous discussions regarding the program, councillors have indicated that there should be some mechanism to allow residents who’ve recently had septic system inspections completed to use documentation from those inspections for the purposes of the program.
Council recently passed a bylaw to enact the program.
“One component of the bylaw allows a home owner to retain the services of a third party to complete the inspection of their septic system at their own expense,” reads a March 15 staff report from township chief building official Dave Rogers. “The agreement with WSP does not include a cost associated with WSP collecting the data and compiling that information from a third party provider.”
WSP provided a method of reviewing inspections completed by third parties, the suggested cost for which would be $144.50, also charged to the property owner.
That cost includes $48 for review of the inspection report and credentials of the third-party inspector; $42 for transcribing the report from the third party into digital format; $19 for following up with the third party for questions regarding credentials and identification; and $33 for project support completed prior to the third party identification.
According to Rogers’ report, this last item includes the cost per property of the annual report, public notification, records review, database creation and mail-outs.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she wished the company had made this requirement clearer sooner, which would have allowed the township to inform residents during the “septic social” educational events it held last year.
“You’re going to have to pay twice the money,” Danielsen said. “You’re going to have to pay for your inspection, plus this.”
Mayor Carol Moffatt said the number of residents who’d already had inspections completed would likely be quite low, and said she didn’t realize that some residents might have been seeking prices lower than the fee they would be charged through the program.
“You’re hard-pressed to get a third party to do your septic system inspection for 170 bucks,” Moffatt said. “So I’m not sure why people would go out and get a third party. And again, talk about understanding, it was my understanding that some people, they wouldn’t be going out to seek someone different from WSP. . . but they might have already had it. And how many of those people could there possibly be?”
Councillor Brian Lynch said he was aware of a group of residents near Dorset who thought they’d group together to hire someone privately and that, by sharing the cost, they would come out with per-property expenses less than what they would be through the program.
“They felt they could do better than the $179 . . and they thought, all we have to do is hand in this piece of paper, and we’re done,” Lynch said.
“But what happens if somebody hands in a piece of paper that was produced by Uncle Frank?” Moffatt said, adding the township had a responsibility to ensure that third-party inspections meet the criteria of the program.
She reiterated it hadn’t been her understanding that residents were going to try to seek out better prices.
“It’s never been my understanding that people were going to choose a third-party inspector because they feel they can do better than 179 bucks, but that they might have already done it,” Moffatt said.
Councillor Marlene Kyle took serious exception to the third-party review fees being suggested by WSP.
“I have a hard time with the costs that are presented here,” Kyle “The first item on there, $48 for review of the inspection report and the credentials. So, if we have, pick a number, 100 [third-party inspections], there’s probably only going to be maybe three people who do those inspections, because think about where we live. We don’t have access to hundreds of people, different companies, that have inspection credentials.”
“To me, they’re double-dipping and triple-dipping on their $48 per property,” Kyle said. “I have a hard time with their costs, all of their costs.”
Moffatt agreed that, given the few people in the area qualified to perform inspections, it seemed illogical to have to check their credentials over and over again.
“So, it’s a bit confusing,” Moffatt said.
Chief administrative officer Angie Bird suggested that the township may be able to absorb the cost of the third-party review fee for what would ultimately likely be a small number of residents.
“The other option for council is, there is likely going to be so few of these, that we absorb them,” Bird said.
Councillors requested that Rogers take their concerns with the proposed fee back to the company.
“There are going to be people not very happy about this at all, and understandably, so, as such, I think you’re hearing council ask to go back and have a chat with WSP,” Moffatt said.