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Upland drainage fee ditched

Residents of the rural uplands area will not be paying a new drainage fee.

Abbotsford council decided to reject a staff suggestions to create a new fee to generate $200,000 towards the $300,000 needed to provide a minimal level of service to maintain ditches in the area.

The proposal was to charge a flat fee of $5 per acre. The area, which includes the upland areas of Bradner, Mount Lehman, Sumas Mountain and Vedder Mountain, consists of about 40,000 acres.

The remaining $100,000 was to come out of the roads budget.

Instead, council decided to adopt Coun. Henry Braun’s suggestion to continue providing the ditch maintenance by taking  the extra $200,000 cost out of the roads budget as well.

“I’m not proposing we increase the budget by $200,000. I’m saying we should do that (ditch maintenance) within the confines of the budget,” said Braun.

Jim Gordon, general manager of engineering and regional utilities, told council that the total roads budget is approximately $7 million, with $5 million earmarked for road restoration while the rest goes to sweeping and other maintenance.

City manager Frank Pizzuto said the move will result in a net decrease to city services next year.

He explained that only 0.16 per cent of the new municipal tax increase is going towards city services. That’s less than $200,000.

By adding the $200,000 cost to the roads budget, it has nullified any benefit the increase would have created.

“We can’t just absorb this fee and continue to do business as usual. It will mean less road sweeping or less road reconstruction or something.

“Money has to be spent somewhere so it means we will stop doing something and if that’s what council wishes, that’s what we will do,” said Pizzuto.

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