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Kentville, Kings County still disagreeing over $600k worth of sewer bills

Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow holds documents pertaining to the proposed Webster Street Beautification and Traffic Calming Project that recently received some mixed reviews in council chambers.
Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow, shown here while discussing bike lanes, says her town and the surrounding Muncipality of Kings County are deadlocked as they try to suss-out a sewer fee arrangements. Kentville provides water and sewer services to some properties that are outside of town boundaries. - Ashley Thompson /The Register/Advertiser

KENTVILLE, N.S. - The Town of Kentville and the Municipality of Kings County have settled a good chunk of more than $1 million in outstanding debts the town says it was owed by the county, but more than half of that amount is still a matter of contention.

Kentville mayor Sandra Snow said representatives from both sides met recently and resolved outstanding issues around recreation fees, with the town taking somewhere around $25,000 less than it had billed. And a disagreement on the number of fire hydrants in each municipality should be resolved shortly, although she said the town’s calculations are actually favourable to the county.

But the two sides haven’t reached an agreement on the largest amount in dispute: more than $625,000 Kentville says it is owed in unpaid sewer bills dating back to 2015-2016.

“We’ve been back and forth discussing it,” Snow said. “We have basically come to a deadlock. They made their final offer and we ... took it back to council.”

She said council didn’t accept the offer, and met in camera Monday night to discuss the issues. What council discussed at the meeting and what actions they may be considering can’t be disclosed because they occurred behind closed doors.

The county offer was “quite a significant amount” below what the town wanted, Snow said.

The town said the county paid a portion of what it was billed for sewer in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal years, but nothing in the following two years.

Snow said the dispute appears to be over an increased bill for sewer service to the Meadowview area of Kings County, on Kentville’s western boundary.

Sewage from the 350 properties there flows through the town, which levies a flat rate for the service to cover infrastructure maintenance and upkeep.

The rate was increased after a consultant told the town that it seemed to be spending more on sewer services than it was collecting from customers, and that the old rate didn’t adequately cover the cost of maintaining the infrastructure.

Snow said in July that the county council of the day in 2014 had made a commitment to its taxpayers that it was not going to raise taxes, and did not pay the increased sewer rate. The residents of Meadowview are billed by, and pay their sewer bill to, Kings County.

The town recently wrote off $70,000 from its 2014-15 invoice to the county for sanitary sewer. It took money out of reserves to balance the budget.

That outstanding bill has gone to a collection agency.

Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart could not be reached Tuesday. He had said in July that the municipality will pay its bill.

“There will be no problem with Kings honouring its entire obligation to the town of Kentville, that’s not an issue whatsoever,” he said then. “In fact, there is a cheque already cut for it.”

He said those dealing with the dispute at the staff level are fully aware of the difficulties that are associated with the bill, and are looking at whether the calculations have gone askew over the years or whether they complied with the actual arrangements for payment.

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