Even after increase, rate does not recover full cost

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Water rates have officially increased in Big Lakes County, short of cost recovery.

At its regular meeting Jan. 13, council adopted a bylaw to raise the water rate to $6.05 per cubic meter from $5.45.

The rate is just over an 11 per cent increase.

The new fee is still far below the full recovery cost of about $7.50 per cubic meter, says Heather Nanninga, director of corporate services.

The proposed increase will add an extra $8 to $10 per month for the average user, CAO Jordan Panasiuk says.

Some council members believe the rate is still too low.

“I still don’t think that’s enough,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

“That’s not considering inflation and the cost of recovery.”

He says the county may face a financial crunch in the coming years if the rate doesn’t recover the cost.

“If we don’t catch up to cost, we’ll get into trouble,” says Matthews, who voiced those concerns when council gave first two readings of the bylaw at its regular meeting Dec. 9.

He says many people don’t use the county water system and are subsidizing the service.

Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor David Marx knows that.

“Most people use dugout water,” Marx says.

“We have to get up to cost of production.”

South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart says it’s not the time for a greater increase as many people struggle financially during the pandemic.

“This is enough of an increase, people are hurting,” Stewart says.

Adopting the bylaw, council also increased the dog pound boarding fee to $30 from $25 and added a $15 administration fee for fines collected on behalf of the Town of High Prairie for dogs captured in the town.

Fees harmonize with those stated in the Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework between Big Lakes and the Town of High Prairie, Nanninga notes.

The bylaw also proposed to raise rates for dust control.

Nanninga says the dust control program and fees will be presented as a separate agenda item at the next council meeting Jan. 27.

The bylaw proposed to increase dust control fees to 100 per cent of the cost of materials for the first application, up from 75 per cent, and 75 per cent for the second application, up from 50 per cent.

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