First reading of utility rates bylaw passed, increased charges expected

Written by Terri Huxley

Council went through the Utility Rates Bylaw during their regular meeting on Mon. Sept. 28.

Of most concern was the need for change in the areas of enforcement as the current bylaw does not explicitly outline the required steps needed to enforce the nonpayment of unpaid utilities or the need to enforce long term nonpayment.

Bylaw 2020-675, along with the guidance of the Municipal Affairs Act (MGA), has been restructured to provide avenues of enforcement, while still being fair to all utility users within the municipality.

It will enforce that if a resident’s utilities are in arrears more than three consecutive months, then administrative actions can be taken to ensure cost recovery efforts.

If funds are not received, the administration can issue a 90-day notice letter to ensure compliance.

After notice period, the utility would then be ordered to be shut off at the direction of the administration and the expense of the property owner.

If a resident wished to have a utility reconnected, it would be a mandatory requirement that the resident (property owner/renter) pay the full outstanding amount on the utility bill before receiving the reconnection of utilities.

This would also include full payment for the service fees to reconnect the utilities as well. 

If the utilities and the tax roll are not paid within a one-year period, it would be recommended to allow the administration to send the accounts to a collections agency to attempt to recoup the costs.

However, this section has not been included yet and would require some discussion within the council, due to COVID -19 at this time.

Currently, administration rolls any outstanding utility bills for utilities into the registered property owner’s taxes if full payment is not received by Dec. 3t, 2020.

This practice would be kept the same, except that if a renter did not pay their utility, the property owner would assume the costs and roll the outstanding into the tax roll for that property.

For the 2021 utility consumption rates, it would be recommended to do a slight increase in the flat rate charge from $25 to $30 and to increase the cubic meter charge to $3/PCM from $2.70/PCM for cost recovery.

One thing pointed out by Dep. Mayor Ron Checkel was how the water meter transmitter section could be interpreted, saying it should be reworded to clarify that the flat rate total will be $120 if a person’s water meter (MUX or LTE unit) stops sending data.

This temporary charge will only be removed from utilities if the property owner or utility account holder provides access to have the meter and MXU or LTE units inspected for possible replacement of faulty parts in a timely manner, or if the name on the account or property owner fails to respond within the agreed upon time frame.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Quinton Flint said he would change this section by putting it into two parts to speak to when this charge will be applied and how communication will be delivered since many don’t know when their meter is having issues.

“We thought it was a good enough number to make people pay attention at $120.

CAO Flint noted that the average is $110 for these types of charges.

Council carried first reading with this amendment. One councillor opposed.

Water line request

Ryan Ramsay came to council and made a short presentation on his experience finding the connection to the town’s water line.

Location of the hydrovacing was at Ramsay’s Stockman Center LTD. 4510 Victoria Ave.

Ramsay had contacted the town office and staff for assistance in locating the underground water lines required to provide water to his trailer on the property.

The waterline was roughly located by public works, and the line was deeper and off the mark, where the public works staff had anticipated it to be.

This then cost Mr. Ramsay three days’ worth of hydrovacing to locate the waterline and what was expected to be a bill for $1,500 to $1,800 turned into $6,300.

“We drilled a whole bunch of holes in the ground we didn’t need to but we didn’t know where [the line] went because of the age of the facility,” he said.

“If we had known which direction it would have been much easier,” he said.

Council chose to decline the request to provide support for Ramsay’s efforts to connect to the municipal water line as the town is not required to know where the connection is once it enters onto a property owner’s land, making it the owner’s responsibility to know. 

In Bylaw 2014 – Utility Servicing Section 7.7.4, it states “The Town of Coronation or developers shall install that portion of the utility service connection that is on Town of Coronation property and runs from the Town of Coronation utility main to the property line of the street, lane, or boundary of an easement or right-of-way granted to the Town of Coronation for its utility system. The owner of a property is responsible for all costs related to servicing on a property.”

The motion was carried with two opposed.

Financial audit

Jeff Faupel of Endeavor Chartered Accountants went over the 2019 financial audit for the town of Coronation at the meeting.

He started out by saying they, as a company, were satisfied the financials are within Canadian Public Standards and their own internal standards.

A recent upgrade to the system has allowed Endeavor to access numbers by viewing them remotely rather than creating an email chain.

The audit was delayed due to the financial system crash in December 2019/January 2020 and, according to CAO Flint, a new system had to be built before a full rollover from the old system into a new system could be implemented, pushing the audit back three months as a result.

The 2020 audit will be occurring right away.

Chicken Bylaw

At long last, the chicken bylaw for the town of Coronation is complete.

Council enacted the bylaw by passing second and third reading at the meeting.

A couple of minor changes were mentioned.

After collecting information and data from other communities, administration gave council a basic view and understanding of the Urban Chicken program that many other local communities are currently participating in.

This bylaw now allows up to five hens to be raised at one municipal property and provided that the property owners and neighbouring residents approve an individual to acquire hens.

The program is geared to allowing the raising of chicks, and that special considerations and care ought to be taken to ensure that the chicks and hens are raised in the most comfortable environment possible.

The bylaw is built in a way that municipal authority for the municipality is in place to ensure the upkeep and care of the chickens are taken seriously.

If at any time the owner of the hens or chicks is found negligent or guilty of an offence, for not following any of the provisions outlined in the bylaw, the municipality reserves the right to remove all animals with that property without question.

MSP funding

The town of Coronation has been awarded by the province Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP)  Capital program for $111,000 for the 2020 – 2021 year.

This money must be spent on a project not previously budgeted or on a project that the municipality had not planned to complete within the next year.

This project would also be required to be completed before the end of the 2021 year.

CAO Flint noted that currently, Diana Lane requires further rehabilitation, as the northwest and east sections of the road are worn down and need attention.

This was not a budgeted item, however, it was to be planned for future years to be completed.

With this new form of money, this project can be completed within the next year and allow the municipality to move forward on other projects for the 2021 year without dampening the currently available funds for the 2021 year.

“It’s tough because they are all important,” said Coun. Brett Alderdice.

Dep. Mayor Checkel asked about the