Town council looks at renewing ATCO Gas franchise

Town councillors are looking at updating the Town of Ponoka’s expired ATCO Gas franchise agreement.

Town councillors are looking at updating the Town of Ponoka’s expired ATCO Gas franchise agreement.

Council heard from Jamie Jaques, the senior manager for Red Deer and district operations with ATCO Gas Tuesday, June 16 during a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Jaques told council that the town’s current agreement expired in 2014 but the company has honoured the agreement until a new one is outlined. He said in working with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), a new agreement was outlined for municipalities looking at these types of franchise agreements.

There were minor changes to the AUMA approved agreement and Jaques outlined some of them with council.

“Probably the biggest change is the minimum 10 year up to the maximum 20 year (agreement),” said Jaques.

Jaques said the franchise agreement provides ATCO Gas the exclusive right to provide service to the community and obligates both the town and the provider to work within the agreement.

“We’re certainly ready to commit long-term,” he added.

Part of the agreement allows the town to collect a fee from residents and ranges from 17 per cent up to 35 per cent of the total revenue produced by the contract. For 2014 the annual franchise fee collected by the town was $308,176.

Jaques said municipalities can decide to charge more or less for the exclusive agreement. “It’s also your comfort level. You’re collecting money from your constituents.”

The agreement also provides guidelines on how the two groups will work with each other and dealing with expansion in the community. Jaques said if the town grows, so does ATCO Gas.

If growth is more than 640-acres or more than 25 per cent of the municipality, the town can pull out of the agreement but Jaques said it is generally in a community’s best interest to keep the same provider as they expand.

If council decides to continue the agreement with ATCO Gas, a new bylaw will have to be passed. Council would be required to pass first reading of the bylaw and from there would need to send the application to the Alberta Utilities Commission for further approval.

Jaques suggested it could take four to six months for the entire process once it starts.

ATCO Gas has served the town since 1945, has four employees and serves 3,065 customers in the municipal boundary. As this was a Committee of the Whole meeting no decisions were made.

The meeting was held at the Hudsons Green Nature and Activity Centre as certain portions of Town Hall have been closed pending inspections.