Bylaw amendments for utility rates approved effective 2017

Evergreen pump house.

Evergreen pump house.

New utility rates were approved by the TNRD board on Thursday (Dec. 15, 2016). As I’ve previously posted, this is good news for those in some service areas, not so good in others.

I reported to the board that in all the meetings held in Area P, people expressed disappointment that they weren’t consulted before the decision was made to change the rates to reflect an averaging of direct labor costs.

This is something I raised before the decision was made, and unfortunately didn’t get support from the board. I said Thursday that even if people don’t feel they can turn back the tide, they would like the opportunity to splash around in the water a little. In other words, they like to feel part of the process, and sometimes they have ideas that can change our minds.

Anyway, the final step was to adopt bylaw amendments on Thursday, and only some minor changes were made to what the Utilities Committee and the board earlier approved.

For example, residents in Del Oro and Black Pines will continue to pay the current rates for the first quarter of 2017 rather than take savings under the news system, while formal surveys are conducted.

Indications from an informal straw poll in Black Pines was that residents there prefer to continue with current rates until a survey can be distributed asking if they want to make it permanent. The difference between current rates and new rates would go into a reserve fund for future capital needs.

The feedback I received from Black Pines residents was a 3-1 ratio in favour of the status quo until the survey is completed, so that’s the direction I gave to staff. The survey will go out in January.

The community meeting for Evergreen system users raised a lot of respectful questions, one of which was why they can’t receive the benefit of economies of scale. In other words, why don’t all TNRD taxpayers contribute to their system?

That is an important question, as back in 2010 the TNRD decided to change the way it taxes for utilities and to transition to a user-fee based system. However, the challenges of systems with very few residents, such as Evergreen, were recognized by implementing a cap on monthly rates.

Frankly, a return to the old system of everybody paying for all the costs of water and sewer systems even if they don’t receive service is highly improbable.

At the meeting for Paul Lake residents, one of the main questions was whether those who are on the sewer system subsidize, in effect, other systems because the labour costs for Paul Lake are lower.

I raised it with staff after the community meeting and again at the board meeting, but staff is adamant that averaging of direct labour is fairer and that keeping track of exact labour for each utility is impractical. I’m putting together more detailed information for Paul Lake residents on that and other aspects of their system.

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