By Kim Hutchison
On Dec. 9 at Town Hall the recommendation that Bylaw No. 258-08 amending Bylaw No. 2-91 be given at least three readings was addressed. The 2009 budget reflects a five per cent increase in residential and commercial water and sewer flat rates to reflect the cost of the regionalized water system and to cover costs to operate the water distribution and sanitary sewer systems. The garbage rates have also been increased to reflect the increase in contract process with the contractor. As noted during budget deliberations, utility services such as water, sewer and solid waste need to be self-sustaining. It is not a practice for municipalities to have other revenue generating areas support the utility operations.
The Council of the Town of Ponoka deemed it necessary to adjust the rates and charges set in Bylaw No. 2-91 and the increase will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. For a complete list of detailed information with regards to residential and commercial pricing visit www.ponoka.org.
It was also recommended that Council approve FIN-001-021 utility policy. This policy was last updated on Mar. 31, 2001 and deals with major areas such as security deposits, utility connection/reconnection fees, requests for connections and disconnections, due dates, payments, late payment penalties and the disconnection of services for non-payment of NSF cheques.
A new section titled Billing Responsibility has been added. This section indicates that all residential properties will be listed in the name of the owner of the property only. A duplicate utility bill can be sent to the property if it is rental property, but the responsibility for delinquent amounts, fees or penalties resides with the owner. If such accounts become delinquent they will then be put onto the property taxes of the owner of the property. The deposit required has been updated from $150 to $300 – roughly three months of utilities, which is often the length of time it takes to see whether or not an account is going to be paid. Having 12 months of satisfactory payments, providing a credit reference, or authorizing monthly bank account remittances are other options to paying the deposit.
Lastly, the current policy states that utilities will be disconnected if the arrears are over $50 or one month. This has been changed to $150 or two months in arrears to recognize the increase in utility costs since 2001 and to provide two months for service and/or arrears to be paid in full before action is taken.