By Trevor Busch
Objections to an increase in the town’s bulk water rates for 2015 led Coun. Joe Strojwas to cast a dissenting vote following council discussion of the annual fee bylaw.
At their Dec. 15, 2014 meeting, town council voted 6-1 to pass third and final reading of Bylaw 18-2014. Coun. Strojwas opposed the motion.
“I’ve already heard lots of complaints that our water rates are considerably higher than adjoining communities such as Vauxhall and Barnwell, and I see we’re putting them up again,” said Coun. Strojwas, prior to the vote. “I realize that we’re almost three times as much as we charge our own residential users. I would like to see that reduced, not rising again.”
Relating to fees for services rendered by the town effective in 2015, Bylaw 18-2014 was drafted with revisions and updates by administration pertaining to utility system fees, recreation user fees (updated to reflect an approved three per cent increase), and cemetery services (AISH allowable expenses – grave site at 50 per cent, increased from $188 to $355).
“We want to make sure that we’re reasonably competitive throughout the area, but we also want to make sure we’re recovering our costs as well,” said director of corporate services Dale Culler. “There was a fair amount of discussion that was had about that fee. That fee went up 1.5 per cent, whereas the water fee went up zero basically across all the rest of the components.”
The bulk water rate established in Bylaw 18-2014, effective Jan. 1, 2015, will be $3.10 per cubic metre.
“A single individual, such as myself, or a little old lady in Taber, is actually paying more for their water because of that flat fee, than a user who would be coming to town,” said CAO Greg Birch. “You have to get up to a sizable per cubic usage before you to start to pay more than a town resident does. So at the low end, town residents are paying more for water than outsiders at that rate, and that’s because of the flat fee.”
Birch went on to point out part of the rise in the bulk water rate relates to a measure of cost recovery for the approximately $600,000 bulk water fill station recently constructed and completed by the Town of Taber.
Strojwas remained unconvinced by this rationalization for the increased fee.
“We are almost double what neighbouring communities charge. I know of businesses in the industrial section that have large tanks in their shops, and they fill them with garden hoses from their own taps, because they’ve figured out that with tanks that size, it’s way cheaper to fill it through their industrial water than it is to go fill the tanks on their trucks from that water fill station. I would probably have to say this is kind of a grey area.”
Culler confirmed the Town of Vauxhall’s bulk water rates were lower by comparison with the Town of Taber, but stated the Town of Coaldale’s rates were higher than Taber.
Following discussion of bulk water rates, community services director Rob Cressman noted cemetery fees reflect an across-the-board five per cent increase for 2015.
“Cemetery services, what’s proposed in schedule ‘G’, reflects a five per cent increase to all the user fees that you looked at earlier in 2014. All of the fees were increased by five per cent.”