Hydro bills draining rural institutions dry: Ottawa Citizen
|St Alexander’s in Lochiel|
Kelly Egan: Hydro is draining rural institutions dry
From churches to curling clubs to pools and small business, all feel the squeeze
Where we stay, where we play, where we pray — there’s no hiding. Hydro shocks everywhere wires flow.
Electricity costs are to rise about 42 per cent over the next five years. As this is a government guess, expect things to be worse.
We have heard how this is bad for you and me and Main Street. But what of the little churches, the seasonal curling rinks, the homeless shelters, the non-profits getting by on duct tape and donations?
In the hamlet of Lochiel, just north of Alexandria, there is a lovely old Catholic church, St. Alexandre, in a parish founded in 1851.
It is on the verge of closing, with only 30 or 40 congregants left. It has one mass per week and shares a priest with a neighbouring parish. In the winter, it is heated for about three hours a week, using a combination of electricity and gas.
In November, it paid $102 in hydro costs. In December, the bill was $221. And, just to repeat: It is open about two or three hours a week; locked up tight the rest of the time.
“I’m sure we’re double what we used to pay,” said volunteer treasurer Madeleine Theoret, also a longtime parishioner. The collection plate is not being used to save souls but to buy electrons, which is probably not the Vatican’s vision.
When you throw in the cost of heating fuel, it costs an average of roughly $50 an hour to open the old doors.
“Utilities are the lion’s share of expenses at these small churches,” said Alexandria-Cornwall diocesan accountant Tracy Cameron. “It’s what makes all the little bookkeepers cry.”
Churches with rectories have an extra problem, she said, since they were built for many clerics but now usually house only one and, old and drafty, still need to be lit and heated.
Take the Alexandria Curling Club, home to sheets and sweeps for 130 years. The hydro bill in November 2012 was $3,200. In 2013, it topped $4,000 for the same consumption.
President Ian McKay predicts the hydro bill for the next year will be about $11,000 higher than the $28,000 in the previous 12 months.
Read the full story here.