Frigid reception for water improvement plan | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 19 Apr 2024 5pm

Frigid reception for water improvement plan

    Residents of East Coulee and Lehigh have been waiting for years for municipal water lines to be extended from Cambria to their communities.
    Residents currently rely on wells to supply all of their water. The quality of the well water varies considerably between households. The cost associated with maintaining the wells and appliances further exacerbates the problem.
    Council released the estimated cost to each resident during a meeting on October 17. The total cost to each household will be $15,768.94. Payment would be spread out over 20 or 25 years through taxes and would cost $1095.32 or $942.08 per year.
    Earlier this year some residents said they would accept municipal water lines at any price. However, after the cost was released enthusiasm waned.
    “I’m in shock,” said Janet Grabner. “It’s certainly a lot more than we thought.”
    “I’m quite upset about the whole situation, because I was looking forward to getting water,” said Vivian Dietz. “Water at the price they're going to charge us is unaffordable.”
    The water improvement tax  could be offset by the savings residents would get from not having to maintain their wells, replacing and repairing appliances, and insurance.
    “There are some cost savings there for sure.” said Mayor Terry Yemen. “You don’t have to have many well failures before you spend that much money.
    “There would be significant savings in house insurance, because there would be fire hydrants,” continued Yemen. “Lehigh residents would save 50 per cent and East Coulee 30 percent.”
    Residents are concerned that any savings would not be enough for the many residents on tight incomes, especially when considering they would have to pay utilities as well.
    “We’re going to get charged for our usage of water,” said Dietz. “I don’t see how it’s going to save us any money.”
    “Most of us are seniors on a fixed income,” continued Dietz. “Where are we supposed to get the money to pay for it?”
    “This is affordable living out here,” said Ray Hummel. “We have a lot of people here on very limited pensions and I think they’ll have a hard time paying their utility bills.”
    A meeting at the East Coulee Community Hall on Wednesday, November 9, at 6:30 p.m. will give residents a chance to communicate with each other and council.
    “We’ll have a petition there so people can sign it,” said Hummel. Two thirds of residents would have to reject the water improvement plan to stop the project.
    There is worry that the plan will go forward and saddle many with crushing bills. However, the project will only proceed with the consent of the residents involved.
    “It’s not being forced,” assures Mayor Yemen. ”We’ll take direction from the people of East Coulee and Lehigh.”
    Until the meeting, residents will have time to weigh their options. The first option being to remain using wells and the problems associated with them. The second option is to accept the proposal and shoulder the large cost with bringing municipal water to the area.
    “We would like to have clean water, but is it worth $1000 a year on our taxes?” asked Grabner rhetorically.

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