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Rising water costs coming down the pipeline

Town councillors give first reading to utility bylaw, approve accessibility request from United Church
Mayor Rob Balay, pictured here at the Nov. 21 town council meeting, said residents can expect water rate increases over the next few years as a result of an increase in the static water rate paid to the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission effective in 2024.

ATHABASCA — Athabasca residents can expect their water bills to increase in the new year after town councillors approved the first reading of a bylaw to amend the utility bylaw. 

During the Nov. 21 regular meeting, councillors voted 6-0 — Coun. Jon LeMessurier was absent — to pass first reading of bylaw 012-2023, Utility Rate Bylaw, which will amend the water rates outlined in the current utility bylaw. 

The rate increase comes after the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission made the switch from a multi-tiered rate in 2021, which saw the municipalities of Boyle and Wandering River charged at a higher rate than Athabasca, to a one-rate system, in which municipalities pay a static rate. 

“The commission decided to go to one rate versus the three different rates, and it affected the town more-so. As far as cost-wise, there was a negative impact for the town that we have to make up for,” said mayor Rob Balay in a Dec. 1 follow-up. 

According to the Nov. 21 agenda, admin has calculated an estimated $238,000 increase to the town’s water expenses in 2024 based off an expected consumption of 401,500/m3. Balay said in addition to the two increases in 2023, users can expect rate increases over the next few years in order to close the gap. 

“We’re trying to do it gradually, we didn’t want to hit everyone with a 20 per cent increase, so we’re trying to soften the blow,” said Balay. 

The new utility rate bylaw will see the minimum charge for water services (five meters cubed) set at $26.88 per billing, up from $25.60, the rate set on Jan. 10, 2023. The rate for 18m3 or less will be $5.3760/m3 compared to the current rate of $5.1201/m3.

Charges for more than 45m3 will be calculated at a rate of $6.0921/m3, up from $5.8021/m3.

Second and third readings are expected to take place at the next council meeting scheduled for Dec. 5. If both readings are passed, the five per cent increase in water rates will come into effect immediately, with changes reflected on the next billing cycle in February 2024. 

United Church parking 

Differently-abled locals won’t have to travel far for adequate parking at the Athabasca United Church after councillors agreed to add two extra accessible parking stalls in front of the building. 

Councillors voted 6-0 to approve the Oct. 27 request from Athabasca United Church council chair Doug Kariel and establish 2 permitted parking stalls for church-goers with mobility aids or difficulties. 

“Much like the Athabasca Legion, who now have three designated spaces, our congregation is also hitting the milestone of needing help with accessibility,” read Kariel’s email to the town. 

Coun. Sara Graling voiced her support for the request, noting the ample parking space along 48 Street. “I don’t see a lot of competing interest from other potential users in that area, so absolutely if they find it to be an appropriate use of the space in front of their building, I’m in support of it,” she said. 

Yuill expressed her support for two stalls, placed directly in front and behind the accessibility ramp leading to the church door. She said her recommended placement would prevent other vehicles from blocking wheelchair, walker, or other accessibility aid access to the ramp and lowered sidewalk. 

“I’m not on the board of the church, but I go to it and I hear stuff” said Yuill. “They don’t know why they have a sloping walkway if they didn’t have a handicapped spot, because the two go hand-in-hand.” 

Lexi Freehill,

About the Author: Lexi Freehill

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