Town of Peace River council decided at its Nov. 27 regular meeting to increase utility rates by five per cent in the new year.
Mayor Elaine Manzer says the increase cost aligns with current economic inflationary costs and is required to ensure full cost recovery.
“The Town has approved the process of setting the water, wastewater, storm water utilities under one budget that is moving towards being self-sustaining,” says Manzer.
“With increasing costs of materials used within these systems including maintenance of the systems, five per cent is reasonable at this time.”
Utilities affected by the increase are water, wastewater and sewer, and stormwater, and also inclusive of solid waste and garbage collection.
Administration is in the midst of completing a cost-of-service review that is anticipated to be complete by February 2024. The review will determine appropriate rates to fund current operating costs and anticipated future capital expenditures.
“It will have data that include the costs of operating the systems as well as expectations on maintenance or reconstruction of parts of the system that will be used to determine the ongoing rates needed to run the systems on their own without using property tax dollars,” says Manzer.
“Grants will continue to be researched and applied for. The Town’s systems include the water treatment plant at the south end of Shaftsbury Estates, all the pipes, reservoirs, lift stations and the wastewater treatment plant at the north end of town. All very expensive infrastructure.”
In 2022, the Town adopted a user-pay cost-of-service model system to ensure that all costs were recouped, and future infrastructure could be saved through the monthly payments users make.
“The Town has considered these increases are hard on all budgets,” says Manzer.
“However, with the user pay philosophy, some of the users that do not pay taxes are also now sharing the costs of these systems.”
Administration explained there has been a change in sanitary sewage dumping charge. They explained the adjustment to the flat rate structure is necessary because operators are working seven days a week, and the increased fee is based on the average time required to respond and process each call out.
“This is a fee paid when private operators need to dump sewage, they have collected from their customers who would generally not be on the town water and sewer system,” says Manzer.
“They pay the fee as the sewage needs to go through the town waste water treatment plant to meet the environmental standards for sewage disposal.”
Manzer says utility rates will include amounts needed for expected future expenditures to the system.
“Reserves should start to accumulate for future large expenditures that both the present and further users will be accessing,” she says.
“The modelling study that is being conducted, will have the expected lifespans of the infrastructure and be recommending rates that include those infrastructure costs as part of the study’s recommendations,” she adds.
Utility rate increases will be effective Jan. 1, 2024.
Emily Plihal Local Journalism Initiative Reporter - South Peace News - southpeacenews.com
Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, South Peace News