By Steve Hubrecht

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It’s official: Invermere has a new parcel tax to pay for sewer and water system upgrades. 

The tax amounts to about $50 per parcel, and was the subject of a Pioneer news story two weeks ago, which outlined that the tax will pay for phase two of the water and sewer upgrades along 13th Avenue. Invermere undertook the first phase of work in summer 2021. The second phase began last summer, has been on pause while the ground is frozen this winter, and will be finished early this spring.

The total cost of the second phase is $3.3 million, which the district funded partly by using its own reserves, and partly by borrowing $1.5 million. It’s this $1.5 million in debt that the new parcel tax will pay for.

Local residents should get notice about the tax in the mail very soon, if they haven’t already.

Invermere council has been discussing the borrowing and the resultant parcel tax for almost a year now, and during the Tuesday, February 28 council meeting, they voted to adopt the proposed bylaw making the tax official.

As Invermere chief financial officer, Karen Cote, outlined at the meeting there was “a very public, months-long process through 2022” that has now culminated in the bylaw.

Councillor Kayja Becker asked if all Invermere residents connected to the sewer system are subject to the parcel tax, with those on their own septic systems exempt. Cote responded that yes, that’s correct, but added an important additional qualifier: not only parcels in Invermere that are connected to the sewer system but also those that are capable of being connected to the sewer system, will need to pay the tax. This means that currently vacant lots, with no buildings on them, but which could be hooked up to the district’s sewer system in the future, will also be charged.

During the previous council meeting on Feb. 14, Invermere chief administrative officer  (CAO), Andrew Young, underscored just how badly needed the upgrades on 13th Avenue were, saying that  “we’d reached the point where where (the sewer and water system) was operating under surcharge — that is pressure — rather than gravity, as it is supposed to,” and adding that as a result, sewage backup into houses was a very real threat.

During the Feb. 14 meeting, when the bylaw got its first three readings, Invermere councillor Gerry Taft has said “$50 a year — that’s a bit more than $4 a month — is not a lot to pay in order to not having sewage backing up into homes”.