The owner of a Drumheller trailer court feels he is being discriminated against by the Town of Drumheller with recent changes to the way utility bills are being levied, and is willing to go to the Energy Utilities Commission to find a solution.
Anthony Audia, owner of Greenwood Villa Mobile Home Park has seen a 300 per cent increase in his water and wastewater bill in the last three years. This year, he saw an especially large increase after the town changed how it bills for apartment buildings and manufactured home parks.
Under the changes, each dwelling unit in an apartment complex or lot in a manufactured home park will be billed the $10 fixed rate for water and the $10 fixed rate for wastewater. Owning a property with 110 hook-ups, his bill increased by $2,200 a month, a cost he’ll have to pass onto his tenants. Even for the 15 lots that are unoccupied, he pays the flat rate.
“Last year when they raised the rates, I kept quiet, but this is too much,” said Audia. “My tenants cannot afford another $50 increase per month. One-third of them are pensioners, there are some who are on AISH and some who work for minimum wage. In good conscience I cannot do that and this town cannot do that.”
“I used to pay $3,000 per month a year ago, and last year it went up to $5,000 on average. Now it’s $9,000 in January.”
This makes him worry about the impending summer months when usage goes up maintaining the property and playground.
Audia adds he is not able to make rental increases until November 2010.
He said this is unfair because the whole property runs off one water meter, and Greenwood Villa maintains the entire infrastructure.
“They don’t fix the road, I do. I maintain the sewers. If there is a break, I pay for the water that is lost,” he said.
He said, in fact, he treats much of the sewer water that comes from the property, cleaning out the solid waste annually before it hits the sewers and municipal water treatment plant.
“We do everything in our power to do things right, and they come back with this, I am out of my wits,” he said. “I tried to develop a community where people can be friendly. We have worked very well with the RCMP to clean up the place. We are looking after both the social and the building community.”
Michael Roy, director of Corporate Services, said the town made the changes to make it more fair.
“We had some members of the community comment it was inequitable that all the units in an apartment or a trailer park only had to pay the single fee, whereas a homeowner had to pay the same fee,” said Roy. “Council reviewed it and decided each residential unit would have to pay the fee.”
He said he has seen the same practice in Taber.
Roy explains the rate it is based solely on the number of units and not the number of water meters or sewer lines. The flat rate, he said is not related to the infrastructure.
“That is the base fee we charge everybody, regardless of the amount of water consumed,” said Roy.
Audia is pursuing the matter and has sent correspondence to the Alberta Utilities Commission. It is written into the Municipal Government Act that a resident can appeal to the commission and it can rule if the billing for the utility service does not conform to the public utility rate structure established by the municipality, has been improperly imposed, or is discriminatory.
Audia has also sent a letter to Drumheller Town Council and hopes they can come to a resolution.
He states, “Between February 19, 2010 and the time that the Alberta Utilities Board sets a hearing date, I am available to the Town of Drumheller to come to a resolution of this complaint. I would like to address Council, Mayor and administration on this issue through an in camera meeting…in the meantime, the ‘complaint to the Alberta Utilities Commission’ continues.”
Audia adds he has talked to councillors Sharel Shoff and Terry Yemen on the issue, and they have been receptive.