Council forced to raise water rates again

  • Feb. 16, 2011 11:00 a.m.

Just weeks after town council increased utility rates five per cent, Ponoka residents will be hit with another 28 percent hike in the price of water.

The City of Red Deer has advised the Town of Ponoka, a member of the North Red Deer River Water Services Commission, that its cost for a cubic metre of water will increase March 1 to $2.18 from $1.70. The cost charged by the town to residential consumers will increase to $2.58 per cubic metre from $2.10.

That means the monthly bill for a customer using an average of 25 cubic metres will increase to $81.44 from $69.44.

There had been no increase in the consumption charge for several years.

Mayor Larry Henkelman, Ponoka’s representative on the water commission, said the town plans to appeal the rate hike.

He told council last week that part of the reason Ponoka’s rate is going up is because the town’s consumption is going down. Among water commission members Lacombe and Ponoka counties, Lacombe, Blackfalds and Ponoka, only Blackfalds used more water in 2010 than it did in 2009. “The less water we use, the more the price goes up.”

A wet summer and the use of environmentally friendly appliances helped Ponoka residents to conserve water.

Henkelman said Red Deer is also passing on increased costs due to improvements at its treatment plant, expanded capacity and capital projects.

Ponoka’s volume might go up because the Wolf Creek development in Ponoka County will be fed through Ponoka’s waterline.

Because town council does not know for certain what rate might be negotiated with the City of Red Deer, it’s given two readings to a bylaw establishing the new rates. “We know the rate increase is coming,” Henkelman told council, “we just don’t know exactly how much.”

The rate increase is an additional $25,000 per month the Town of Ponoka must pay Red Deer for water.

If the negotiated rate is less than the rate now demanded by Red Deer, the Town of Ponoka would credit its customers the difference, explained CAO Brad Watson.

Ponoka joined the regional water commission in 2004 after Alberta Environment would not allow the town to continue drawing from a depleted aquifer. Coun. John Jacobs recalled the town was “on the verge of having to shut off water” to certain areas of town and impose consumption restrictions. “There really was no choice.”

Councillors said they want to make sure residents know they are just passing on the increase dictated by Red Deer.

“I think we will see a lot of resistance and questions from the public about these rates,” said Coun. Izak van der Westhuizen.

‘The rate is going up whether we like it or not,” added Coun. Beva Hamilton.

Administration recommended council pass that night but Coun. Rick Bonnett wanted Ponoka residents to know about the increase before the new rate becomes law.

He would not consent to giving all three readings in one sitting.

Third reading will be considered Feb. 22.