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New flow-through rate allows county to adjust water rates quickly

Lower cost of water changes cost for Athabasca County residents
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Due to lower costs of water from the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission, Athabasca County council decided Dec. 15 to pass the savings along to consumers, replacing the Water and Sewer Service Charges bylaw adopted Sept. 13.

ATHABASCA — County residents using the regional water system should get a pleasant surprise on their future water bills after councillors reviewed the Water and Sewer Service Charges Bylaw, and decided to pass some savings on to users.

At the Dec. 15 regular meeting, council passed the bylaw establishing new rates which will take effect Jan. 1. The rate will be lower than the previously adopted rates after a reduction in the cost of water from the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission (ARWSC). 

The old bylaw, adopted Sept. 13, would have increased the cost of water from $8 to $11.15 and the new bylaw will only increase the cost to $9.13, or $2.02 less than previously expected. 

“What we're really doing is saying our price of water has come down,” said reeve Brian Hall. “We'd like to bring the rate our customers of this utility pay down at the same level as the purchase price of the water.” 

The minimum consumption charge will be reduced to 10 cubic meters from 12 for residential and commercial water usage and the sewer charge will increase to 35 per cent of the actual monthly water billing in Colinton, Grassland, and Wandering River, however Rochester residential and commercial sewer charges will remain the same.

“I'm concerned that the cost of sewer went up (to 35) per cent (from 20 per cent) in what we're looking at here, and there are some other small issues I'm finding,” Coun. Gary Cromwell said. "We're talking about a reduction yet something like the truck fill there is no reduction in the cost of water and that is over 50 per cent of the water coming out from the county.” 

Cromwell asked his fellow councillors to defeat the motion to approve the bylaw, stating more information needed to be gathered. 

“I believe that we can get that information and revisit this in the future again but for right now if we do not pass this bylaw, water rates are going up and they don't have to,” Coun. Natasha Kapitaniuk said. “So, if this is not a unanimous decision today people are going to have their water bills increased again Jan. 1, and who's answering for that?” 

Hall agreed. 

“I, for one, am not willing to sit on my hands and push the $11 rate on people when we have an option to bring it down a little bit at the moment,” he said. 

The new rates will be based on flow-through charges representing the rates charged to the county by the ARWSC, allowing the county to react quickly to any rate changes. 

The new monthly minimum water charges in Grassland, Wandering River, and rural subdivisions will be $91.30 per month and the monthly minimum water charge in Colinton will be $72.00 per month. 

By comparison, under the old bylaw rates would have increased Jan. 1 to $11.15 per cubic metre meaning Colinton would have had a minimum charge of $114.47 per month and the rural subdivisions, Grassland and Wandering River rates would have increased to $133.80 per month. 

Water usage fees above the monthly minimum consumption amount will be $9.13 per cubic meter and truck fill stations in all hamlets will be $9.00 per cubic meter. 

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