There was quick reaction on social media to Drumheller Town Council setting the Utility Rate bylaw last week.
Each year Town Council passes a bylaw to set the rates for water and wastewater. Based on 15 cubic metes of water use, bills are set to rise by about $2.70 per month. Despite this modest increase, some were still concerned they are too high and that council would address this.
Town Councillor Tony Lacher said council spent a significant amount of time studying the issues.
“People asked us to look into that, we heard that loud and clear on the campaign trail,” said Lacher. “It was more than making a motion to approve the rates. It was two council discussions and an independent presenter that we went through. We were still not satisfied and that is when we took the next step and got the rates off of the government website and I went to work crunching numbers.”
In his work doing comparisons to other municipalities, council learned their rates were reasonable compared to other jurisdictions.
He also notes that the utility has its own budget and that no funds from the property taxes go into it. The utility is self-sustaining.
“Unless someone wants to subsidize it, the rates are what they are,” he said. “Property taxes are the only other source of revenue. It is a separate utility, it is a separate account, it is a separate project, and it doesn’t draw anything from taxes.”
One point that commenters felt concerned about was that in the summer months, much of the water used for gardens or lawns does not enter the sewage facility and therefore should not be charged as wastewater.
Lacher points out that because of the age of the infrastructure, the storm sewer system and wastewater systems are connected.
“There is only one line,” said Lacher. “It’s an old town, there is only one line and even the rainwater goes out to the plant and gets treated.”
He also notes that when comparing with other jurisdictions, Drumheller is the only one that charges 80 per cent of consumption. This means that residents are only charged wastewater rates for 80 percent of the water they consume.”