Bashaw town council heard the Hwy. 12/21 Water Commission executive tell them that the member communities that make up the regional organization are the real bosses.
The presentation was made at town council’s Mar. 21 regular meeting.
Town council hosted three representatives of the commission, chair Brenda Knight, Lacombe County councillor, Vice Chair Cindy Trautman, reeve of Camrose County, and Manager Dion Burlock, who also works for Lacombe County.
Burlock stated he had a detailed presentation for council because of the commission’s nature. ‘This commission is a big animal,” said Burlock.
He began by explaining the commission is currently working on completing their sixth and seventh phases which were scheduled to be completed by January 2022; however, those phases are not yet completed.
He pointed out when all phases are complete the commission will move to a single fee which will improve clarity for the member communities.
Those two phases are on track for a May completion. Burlock explained supply chain issues have had a negative effect on phase completions and the commission continues to wait for micro chip parts.
Burlock stated the commission’s member communities, totalling about 3,200 people, include Lacombe and Camrose counties with hamlets, Alix, Bashaw, Clive and Edberg and the commission was proposed several years ago when the Village of Alix feared that it would run out of water within 30 days.
Burlock noted that by 2006 pipe was in the ground and water was flowing to Alix. The commission’s current water source is the Town of Stettler.
The commission manager stated that the organization reports to the communities that comprise it and, in essence, Bashaw is one of the six owners of the commission. He also noted all six members have the same voting rights.
In an interview with the ECA Review March 22, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller explained town council wanted to hear from the commission after an unexpected budget change last December.
The commission supplies water to members and is in turn paid by volume at a set rate. Members were notified of the rate, then shortly thereafter the rate was increased by the commission with short warning.
Fuller stated that the Town of Bashaw representatives to the commission were given the impression that they were free to take their concerns back to their councils, but the rate increase was going to be approved regardless.
Fuller pointed out that two town councillors on a commission don’t have authority to increase Bashaw’s water budget, rather the entire town council must pass a resolution.
Fuller added that Bashaw town council feels there should be a mechanism in place for members who have concerns and apparently there is currently none.
Also, according to documentation provided to the Town of Bashaw, the commission had reserves set aside but approved the rate increase regardless.
Town councillors accepted the commission’s presentation as information.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter