Elk Point residents are bracing for a $16 per month increase in their town utility bills.
As of February 1, these new rates will be in effect:
|basic water (14m3)||$60|
(increase of $16 per month)
A handful of residents attended a public hearing during the regular council meeting on
January 22 to express their concerns. They were told that the new rates will reflect the real costs of delivering services and include water rate increases from the Town of St. Paul and the Regional Water Commission, a loan for the water reservoir, and the purchase and installation of new meters.
George Semeniuk spoke up, saying “In St. Paul, they go on a two month cycle. You phone or fax or text your reading in to them. You don’t need meter readers.” He suggested that Elk Point could free up two readers from Public Works if this technique were used. He provided a bill from a unit he owns in St. Paul for which the total monthly fee for water, sewer, garbage and recycling is $57.30.
While unfamiliar with this strategy for meter reading, Mayor of Elk Point, Lorne Young said, “We can’t charge what St. Paul charges. Our rates are set from our budget: how much money we take in, how much we spend.” He continued, “What’s prompted the whole discussion on this fee increase is that when we were talking about the budget in December, we noted an $87 000 shortfall in utilities.”
In the past, costs for water and sewer were partially subsidized by the town out of funds from taxes and assets. However, the Government of Alberta Department of Municipal Affairs has mandated that utilities pay for themselves.
Lesia Porcina, resident and businessperson, asked for clarification on the water system.
Young and Ken Gwozdz, CAO for the town, explained that the water is purchased from the St. Paul Water Treatment Plant by the Regional Water Commission, which is responsible for the pipeline, the pumps, and everything that carries it from the treatment plant to Elk Point and to County of St. Paul residents. The water is stored in our new water storage facility until it is pumped into town.
The Regional Water Commission was established through agreements between the Town of Elk Point and the County of St. Paul and is responsible for fixing any breaks along the way.
It is set up so the Town pays 80% of costs and the County pays 20%, although the usage on that line is about 99% Town of Elk Point. When the line needs maintenance or repair, the Public Works department for the Town of Elk Point is the commission staff and fixes any breaks. Where there is a vault along the waterline to connect to a farm, the vault is the responsibility of the county.
The water is pumped from the North Saskatchewan River into Lac St. Cyr, then into the St. Paul treatment plant.
When asked if the water rates will increase again next year, Young replied, “Utilities must pay for themselves. So whatever it costs us to purchase the water, send the water to Elk Point, distribute the water, fix the line breaks, do all the things that are associated with water, sewer, garbage, those have to pay for themselves.”