User fee changes, reviews part of budget 2018

The City of Cold Lake’s 2018 Operating Budget will see a number of changes to user fees, and a number of user fee reviews across a variety of programs.

“Some of these changes are part of an annual review, others are due to reexamining fee structures that have not been changed over the course of several years,” Mayor Craig Copeland said.

Sewer rates will increase from 50 per cent of water use to 70 per cent of water use over two years. This change reflects the most current data surrounding real-world use of treated water, and how much water requires treatment after use. The impact to the sewer charge on a city utility bill will be from roughly $1.32 (on a minimum bill) to about $6.80 per month (on a flat rate bill) in 2018. The actual impact will depend on a household’s water usage.

Waste management fees, including tipping fees at the landfill and transfer station will also be adjusted to more accurately reflect the cost of service delivery. The changes include:

  • $1.50 fee for organics will be added to city utility bills to cover the organics program
  • Commercial Construction and Demolition tipping fee will increase from $75/tonne to $100/tonne
  • Commercial Municipal Solid Waste tipping fee will increase from $141/tonne to $150/tonne
  • Residential Construction and Demolition tipping fee will increase from $75/tonne to $80/tonne
  • Residential Municipal Solid Waste tipping fee will increase from $50/tonne to $80/tonne

The minimum landfill and transfer station tipping fee for loads under 100 kilograms, which is currently $5, will be adjusted proportionately once staff review the impacts and prepare a bylaw amendment to the fee schedule in 2018. The special tipping fee for asphalt shingles will also be removed.

“The increases in tipping fees and the sewer rates will bring our fee structure closer in line with cost recovery on these services, which has always been our council’s intent,” Copeland said. “These decisions were made after considering detailed data from the landfill and with an understanding of the best practices followed in other municipalities.”

Recreational fees for ice time, the field house, and outdoor field usage, will see an increase after a review by staff to determine the final rates. Fees at the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club and the wellness centre will also be reviewed, while marina slip fees will be increased by 5 per cent.

“Our council has always been very pro-recreation as we feel this contributes to the livability of our region and community,” Copeland said. “While recreation does not often run at cost recovery, the right balance needs to be found and that’s what council hopes to achieve through reviewing fee schedules. In the case of the Golf and Winter Club, a separate review is being done to ensure that it remains competitive and can ultimately increase its revenue.”

A flat rate for the Cold Lake Handi-Bus service is also being proposed. The on-call, door-to-door service will maintain the same hours, but will move to a fee of about $1.75 for a trip anywhere in Cold Lake, rather than charging based on a north zone and south zone. The proposed change, which will be discussed at a future meeting before a final decision is made, would effectively lower the fee for those users who need to travel across town. The current fee structure charges users $1.75 for a one-way ride in either Cold Lake North or South, and $3.50 for a one-way ride that travels from the north to the south, or vice versa.

Cold Lake Transit will also maintain its current hours and remain free, but staff have been directed to conduct a review of the service’s hours, its schedule, and to prepare to implement a fee should council make that decision during its next budget review.

“Cold Lake Transit was intended to increase the livability of our city and we do not want a small fee to have a big, negative impact on usership,” Copeland said. “It’s a bare-bones service that has been very positive for the community. It is run through a contractor and does not have very many staff dedicated to it, so a small change can have a very large impact. Council knows that a fee will likely be introduced at some point in the future – we want to be ready so that when the time comes, it is introduced seamlessly.”

The 5 per cent marina slip fee increase was passed at council on Tuesday. Other fee changes will take effect once bylaw amendments are prepared and passed in 2018. The fee schedule reviews will be conducted by staff and brought to council for a decision once complete.