New Brunswick

1,000 Fredericton customers at risk of water shut-off

The City of Fredericton is warning it may shut off water to people who haven't paid their water bills.

City hall has gone easy so far on people behind on their payments during pandemic

Normally, only 60 to 100 people at a time are behind in their quarterly water-bill payments.

The City of Fredericton is warning it may shut off water to people who haven't paid their water bills.

About 1,000 customers are currently in "shut-off position," or more than three months behind, said Alicia Keating, assistant director of corporate services and acting city treasurer. 

Outstanding and overdue bills add up to almost $1.5 million, and it's starting to affect the city's cash flow, according to Keating. 

"We have regular bills just like everyone else does," she said in an interview after she spoke to council this week. "We have regular bills — we have to pay for our employees, we have to pay for our utilities, as far as making sure the pumps are running and the treatment facilities are running."

Bills are sent out quarterly, and people are given 90 days to pay or they risk having their water shut off. Normally, Keating said, only about 60 to 100 customers have bills that are past due each quarter. 

Reprieve during pandemic

But since the COVID-19 arrived in New Brunswick in March, the city has refrained from shutting off water service to customers who haven't paid their bills. This was done to alleviate some pressure that people and businesses were under because of the pandemic.

The city provides water service to about 18,000 customers. In her 13 years at city hall, this is the largest number of outstanding bills Keating can recall. 

Some councillors, including Henri Mallet, worry it's still too soon to start shutting off water. 

"The last few months were really tough on a lot of people and … we're still in the middle of it. There's still a lot of people affected."

Keating said staff are willing to work with people who need more time to pay and she encouraged these customers to call the city. 

No rise in water rates

Next year will be the first in Fredericton since 2013 that water and sewer rates will not rise. 

Councillors passed the motion Monday night.

Keating said consumption has been up this year, in part because more people are working from home during the pandemic, and because of new housing developments.