Nepean Hydro, having only been formally a separate utility since 1964, showed little interest in being swallowed whole by Ottawa Hydro as part of the reorganization of local government.
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Nepean Hydro became a separate operating utility on July 1, 1964 with the full support of township Council and residents. Its objectives were the reduction of hydro rates and to allow residents a voice in the handling of an essential commodity.
The legislation which governs the operation of Ontario Hydro, also permits the creation of municipal utility commissions to supply local needs.
Nepean Hydro has four Commissioners appointed by the Council and one ex officio Commissioner who by legislation is the Reeve. Eventually, it will operate as an elected Commission, separate and distinct from township Council, a method opposed by the Select Committee of the Ontario Legislature which recommends the operation of local hydro utilities by local councils. The Commissioners feel that a council or council committee, due to its heavy work load, cannot satisfy the varying operative needs with the same economy and efficiency as a dedicated, single purpose Hydro Commission. With fixed assets of $3 million and a gross monthly income of $140,000, the maximum permissible size of Commission of five members is necessary.
The present Commissioners learned a great deal during the three year period of take-over negotiations, and their experience has resulted in
a) the adoption of the most modern computer billing and accounting
system in Ontario;
b) the second Ontario installation of illuminated street name signs;
c) the undertaking of underground wiring and electrical heating
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d) the acquisition of heavy equipment and a service centre and
the construction of a Hydro utility building;
e) the provision of quick and efficient service.
Nepean Hydro with 11,000 customers, ranks 25th amongst Ontario's 357 operating utilities, and like the others provides superior administration by retaining a local interest and identity.
Ottawa Hydro's favourable rate applies to home lighting, cooking and other appliances. However, more Nepean homes are electrically heated since Ottawa's rate for this service is 90% higher. The Ottawa Hydro rate is certain to increase with
a) future expansion of underground wiring, illuminated street signs and electrical house heating programs;
b) the termination of their long term contract for bulk energy.
The expansion of Ottawa Hydro's responsibility over other municipalities would be a retrograde step, and would result in increased rates for less personalized, efficient and progressive service and destroy the unity, purpose and local identity which has motivated the Canadian way of life.
The total problem must be studied and the authority of local Councils expanded and strengthened. Area identities should be preserved, historical and natural boundaries respected and the strong individuality of the Canadian character maintained. Legislation should be updated to increase the number of local Council members and their remuneration. A non-voting, non-governing central coordinating committee with one member from each Council and a permanent salaried secretary should be established to discuss area wide problems; secondary bodies, composed of one member from each operational facet of every municipality, should be formed for the handling of technical problems. Thus maximum co-operation
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and co-ordination can be achieved, and community identities preserved.
The submission was presented by Mr. H. Hargreaves who stated that a plebiscite in December, 1963 ended the three year struggle to establish a township utility by people presently operating it under a 5-man commission. The appointed Commissioners will be elected from next year on.
Nepean Hydro is on the Ontario grid only; its overall average rates are 10% lower than those of Ontario Hydro. There has been no rate change for the farmer yet, but this rate will be the first rate lowered.
It was stated that a hydro utility, unlike a water system, must be in competition with gas and oil companies and should be run as a business under a separate elected commission. A council or a committee of council is considered to be too busy with municipal problems to run a utility efficiently. Further, it is hoped that the recent recommendation (of the Select Committee of the Legislature on Municipal Law) for the abolition of separate local boards and commissions, excluded hydro utilities. While there has been no suggestion of transforming this utility into a Public Utilities Commission, it may be considered in future.
A township utility enables the profit to be applied directly to the area it serves through reduction of rates, improved services, etc.; while there is no profit from lighting homes, there is from water heating and home heating which are the areas of greatest competition. The utility is presently putting underground wiring in all new developments.
There would be no saving in meter reading costs etc. if
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Ottawa Hydro and Nepean Hydro merged, although there might be in billing costs if an updating and consolidation program were undertaken. Future consolidation in Nepean of hydro, water and sewer services with payment by a water bill surcharge might be an advantage. It is not thought that a common rate structure is possible or fair for a metropolitan area as Ottawa people, for example, would be paying for increasing Nepean assets though they had already paid for their own. Further, the principle of pooling area assets without remuneration (as applied in the formation of Metropolitan Toronto) is not agreed to when individually growing areas are involved.