Bashaw council turns down business request for water bill relief

The Town of Bashaw council turned down a request to reduce water billing which came from a large industrial business in town. 

The decision was made at the Dec. 2 regular meeting of council.

Councillors read a request in letter form submitted by Dan Zembal, president of 2194569 Alberta Ltd., which began, “As the land owner of the property located at 5024 46th Ave. we have been asked by our tenant PolyAg Recycling Ltd. to contact the town to discuss the monthly water bills associated with PolyAg’s production facility.”

Zembal went on to state PolyAg had several concerns with their Town of Bashaw water bill, including their large usage in effect subsidizing other residents based on the “total usage demand” system; the large tax bill they pay to the town plus the economic spinoffs their plant creates; PolyAg’s large water usage is “…a justification … for providing PolyAg with a water rate reduction”; that the town already charges more to users than what it pays for supply from the Hwy. 12/21 Water Commission; and, PolyAg’s recycling business helps provide a positive image for Bashaw and the company is considering a second facility but the high water bills are a concern.

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller provided a memo for councillors stating the town buys potable water from the commission at $3.05 per cubic metre and estimated it will be billed to users at $3.049 next year; however, Fuller stated several times in the discussion the town’s billing includes more than just the cost of water and must cover costs to the town such as staffing and maintenance.

Fuller pointed out, “PolyAg continues to be provided with a maximum charge of $215 for two months sewer charges. Many municipalities charge 40 per cent of the water consumption amount as a sewer charge.” The CAO stated PolyAg uses roughly 4,000 to 5,000 cubes of water per year.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh stated PolyAg’s use represents about 10 per cent of the town’s water purchase and he noted some communities have special rates or exemptions for some users or industries. 

McIntosh also said he was “blown away” by the $215 sewer charge, the maximum allowed in Bashaw. He wondered if PolyAg could haul their water in, but Mayor Rob McDonald did some calculation and stated that could require 220,000 gallons per month.

Councillors discussed the possibility of offering water to PolyAg at cost which could add up to about $3,000 in savings for the company per year.

However, Coun. Bryan Gust stated if a reduction was made for one user that lost revenue would likely have to be made up by other users.

Mayor McDonald agreed cutting one user’s rate causes a shortfall somewhere else. “There’s no way around it,” said McDonald.

McIntosh asked if the $215 cap on sewer rates should be removed to which the CAO responded most Bashaw residents pay only about $27 every two months for sewer, so removing the cap would probably only affect the largest sewer users. Fuller pointed out, however, the town has subsidized water rates in the past.

Mayor McDonald added that PolyAg originally requested the town’s permission in drilling their own water well in town but that was turned down because the town can’t allow a well just to avoid paying a water bill.

McDonald also stated there is not much the town can do to lower PolyAg’s water bill besides a direct subsidy along with the deal the company is already getting on its sewer rate.

Councillors unanimously agreed by resolution to deny the request in Zembal’s letter.

 

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.