Council partially refunds property owner for water bills

Written by ECA Review

Forestburg council was presented with a letter from a property owner during their Aug. 10 meeting regarding their utility account. The letter highlighted issues with water usage and sewer consumption charges due to a malfunctioning water meter.

The account owner, whose identity remains undisclosed, raised concerns about the accuracy of their utility charges, as the water meter had not been functioning correctly.

The account owner has requested a refund of $561 to cover the estimated charges during this period.

According to the Utility Rates Bylaw 1:2022, Section 6, which pertains to general regulations, the minimum monthly water consumption level is established at 10 cubic metres if the meter is not working.

Accurate readings were not being recorded due to the malfunctioning water meter.

For the initial five months of the year, the property’s water usage had been estimated at a minimum of 10 cubic metres per month, while the property had been vacant.

Furthermore, the property owner confirmed that the water supply had been turned off since Dec. 31, 2022.

Coun. Elaine Fossen questioned why the property owner is only coming forward now.

“If you got the bill for the whole year and you were charged the water at a minimum cost of 10 cubes would you not question the bill?” asked Fossen.

Coun. Devon McNabb responded that the bills may have gotten mixed up with other bills, or the property owner may have automatic payments set up. He continued explaining that the village’s water meter was down, so they had some responsibility.

Council agreed to refund the owner $198, which would cover the costs for the current year.

Community standards bylaw
To ensure a safe living environment for all citizens while maintaining the integrity of privately-owned properties, council engaged in a thorough discussion regarding the Community Standards Bylaw.

The bylaw aims to regulate conduct and activities on private properties and adjacent areas to promote safety, enjoyment and mutual benefit among residents.

During the deliberation, council members expressed varying viewpoints on implementing the community standards bylaw. Some concerns revolved around collecting complaints from community members.

Mayor Blaise Young emphasized the importance of community engagement, stating, “People will come in but they will not sign a piece of paper. Still, we have to have some way to record it – for our records.”

Fossen also explained that she has been getting many more complaints about unsightly properties.

Robust debate ensued over the appropriate approach to enforcement.

“I got the impression from him that fines weren’t the way to go,” Coun. Robert Frizzell explained, relaying the bylaw officer’s perspective.

Chief Administrative Officer Dwight Dibben indicated that the officer’s approach leaned toward education and understanding, prioritizing resolving issues over imposing financial penalties.

“Fines have started to be deployed more but it’s his judgment,” Dibben stated, referring to the bylaw officer’s discretion in enforcing the standards. Dibben’s also noted that the bylaw officer considers extenuating circumstances, health issues and other factors when addressing violations.

Council agreed that there were ways that people could keep their property clean while they were away and that shift work is not an excuse as you know when and how long you will be gone for.

Frizzell commented that he has seen many young boys and girls cutting grass in the community, and that is one option people could use when away.

“We want it done quickly,” Young emphasized, echoing the council’s collective sentiment of expediting the process of dealing with properties that may violate the standards.

“What council would like is to move faster,” Fossen emphasized, highlighting the urgency to address any potential issues promptly.

Dibben told council that he would bring their concerns up to the bylaw officer concerning the time it takes to fix unsightly premises.

Jessica Campbell
ECA Review


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