Former mayor John Rogers and his wife Margaret came to council with a few concerns surrounding the proposed change in utility bylaw.
So far they have been collecting various feedback from people in the community, most of which are ‘not happy with the Alberta Utilities Commission’ for the project by charging people.
This comes after the Alberta Utilities Commission’s (AUC) decision of their current utilities bylaw and that it was discriminatory in one section.
“I find that was almost bullying because of who it is doing this because how many times has this particular couple come to council and said they were discriminated against? Their favourite word is discrimination,” said Rogers.
“Anyhow I think that other people in the community are being discriminated against,” he said.
Rogers asked council and administration if the homes and businesses within town that have not utilized water services for years were still technically connected to the system.
He was concerned people would simply turn the valve back on or use the open sewer lines instead with the use of a high water table the village sits on.
“So how many of these buildings that are vacant, that we aren’t charging any utility fees are actually running water from their building into the sewer system and not paying for it? I’m paying my utility bill. Are they paying for theirs? I don’t think so.”
Rogers mentioned that Drumheller has their bylaw set so when someone wishes to disconnect from the water and sewer system it is physically cut off by the use of cement to be sure.
“I know when we first made the motion, we didn’t think of any discriminatory moves. Nobody thought they were discriminating against anybody,” said Rogers.
Mayor David Sisley spoke up, “We are just continuing to run around in circles here. It has already transpired which there is nothing we can do about it. The AUC has already ruled against us so we have to look for a new way of doing business.”
Utility Services Bylaw passed
Council passed second and third reading of the new utility services bylaw after the presentation from the Rogers.
“I don’t see any other way of going about this,” said Dep. Mayor Jordan Elliott.
“I don’t necessarily like this but I don’t know what else to do,” added Coun. Robyn Thompson-Lake.
The bylaw will come into effect on January 1, 2020.
In it, residents should be aware that there will be the removal of garbage collection and landfill requisition from this utility structure.
This does not mean garbage collection will cease within the village but rather be defined as a municipal service like snow plowing which will be paid for through taxes.
Managing the collection of garbage and related fees versus water connections can be confusing as not all service connections had garbage pickup originally.
Also, when someone requests their water be turned off it can be hard for staff to monitor which properties need to have their garbage collected or not.
Due to the AUC ruling, if a service is disconnected the village would not would not be able to collect garbage or landfill fees from that property owner, however, they still have to cover the cost of maintaining equipment and maintaining the landfill requisition.
With this new solution it solves this issue by having all ratepayers sharing in the expenses through property taxes.
A disadvantage to this is that residents will no longer see a breakdown of the costs in services as it will be rolled into property taxes.
Tax rates will increase by two mills to cover the estimated loss in revenue of $35,280 that garbage fees and the landfill requisition once brought in.
On the other hand, utility bills will decrease by $21 per month to even out the amount.
ATCO representative Jennifer Friesen gave Delia some options for the implementation of LED lights within the village.
Many municipalities in the area like Three Hills and Elnora have already begun the converting process.
Friesen explained how the new LED lights, the ones replacing the out-dated High Pressure Sodium (HPS) yellow lights, are ‘dark sky compliant’ meaning they are focused on the street they are positioned at rather than sending light pollution into the atmosphere and into neighbouring yards.
“You can look up and see the stars – not going to see the orange glow that you see now.”
She further explained that these new lights have a long 15 to 20 year life span which counts for reduced maintenance and street light patrols conducted by ATCO employees.
In order to possibly achieve this, three ideas were tossed around, one to use capital costs from the village’s budget, another to access grants through the Federation of Municipalities like Rosalind and Delburne, or to join the conversion multiplier.
The multiplier program, in essence, is a finance option which is found to be a safe one because the lights are installed right away with no up-front costs.
A bill analysis showed that going with this multiplier could save the village $337 per year.
Council requested a village map that shows the difference and shows the light footprint they currently have versus if they were to convert to get a better idea of where the lights cover and address dark spots.
Sewer line blockage
A blockage from the weekend of Dec. 6 was brought up in conversation by Mayor Sisley.
CAO Nikota explained that the plug was not similar to the one from last time as this one was mixed with grease and other clogging items.
A company from Red Deer was found to be cheap and effective in getting the line unblocked.
In another area, there was a partial blockage beginning to form but CAO Nikota explained he was already working on getting quotes to have it fixed.
They had offered a sewer flushing that would help alleviate future buildups.
Drumheller already does this but Delia found they may only need to do it every so often, like every five years.
Residents and businesses alike were encouraged to stop flushing things that aren’t supposed to be.