By Laura Keil

Proposed rate hikes (2017 estimates). The 2020 numbers differ slightly from those presented in this week’s agenda. If staff’s recommendation of a (lower) 8.5% rate hike is approved, water will cost residents $380.14/year and sewer $456.19 plus the cost of garbage (roughly $110) for a grand total of approx. $946 a year. Commercial rates are approx. 18% higher. / 2017 RMG FILE

Council was slated to consider another utility fee increase in 2020 at this week’s Council meeting (after presstime).

The proposed increase is part of a previously-approved 9-year plan that will bring rates from about $675 per single family home (2016 rates) to $1500 over the course of 10 years. The village is justifying the hike by the need to create reserves for infrastructure repairs and replacement.

Last spring the Village receiving $2.88 million last spring from the Province to help cover future infrastructure needs, but at that time Mayor Owen Torgerson said Council is not currently reconsidering utility fee increases. He said the $2.88M was invested with the Municipal Insurance Association until the village’s integrated asset management plan is completed.

The 2.8M was part of a $100-million Northern Capital and Planning Grant, which provides funding for infrastructure and long-term planning to four regional districts in the north and their 22 municipalities.

There is no mention of the $2.88 million on this week’s Council agenda and how it might affect rate increases going forward.

Village staff is recommending hiking water and sewer rates by 8.5% in 2020 and eliminating early-payment discounts. Garbage fees are proposed to increase by 3% for the 2020 year. The Village has been putting away more money since 2017, after a report showed it was not putting enough money into reserve to cover future infrastructure replacement. At that time, Director of Finance Lori McNee noted that much of the Village’s water and sewer infrastructure is 40 years old and would soon need replacing. She said even if the Village applies for grants, the Village is still responsible for 25-33% of the cost, so a $1M sewage lift station requires a village contribution of $250,000 to $330,000. McNee said eight lift stations will need replacing in the next 20 years (costing up to $2.64 million in total, according to those estimates).

Also in this week’s agenda is a decision on whether to bill customers quarterly instead of yearly.

Approved rate increases and changes to billing will be incorporated into the Fees & Charges bylaw and brought to Council at the November 26th Council meeting for 1st, 2nd and 3rd readings.

See the Goat’s ongoing coverage in next week’s issue.