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Red Deer's new utility charges start

Red Deer residents now have more control over their utility bills.

The city has taken the first steps to switch from a fixed usage fee to a consumption-based model, where customers will pay only for what they use.

The city is making the changes over five years to mitigate rate shock.

Bills now include a line indicating a fixed monthly charge, plus a usage based charge.

Some residents may have received two utility bills this month as a result of the changes.

The first bill reflects partial charges at the old rates until Dec. 31.

The second bill reflects the remaining charges from Jan. 1, using the new rates.

In addition to the move to the consumption-based model, residents will pay on average 5.9 per cent more for water and 3.1 per cent more for wastewater.

The proposed rate changes will increase the overall utility cost by 4.4 per cent for the typical household using 17,000 litres of water per month.

“It’s still a modest change for many consumers,” said Tom Warder, Environmental Services Department manager, at a city council meeting on Monday where the first reading of the bylaw was passed.

“If you are using the moderate consumption amount, you won’t see any change other than the three to six per cent. If you are a really high (consumer), your bill will go up a little steeper. If you are in the low end of consumption, you might see your bill drop off.”

The fixed rate will go down for everyone and the variable rate will increase.

Coun. Paul Harris said he is thrilled that the city has finally got to the stage where users of less water will benefit.

“I am happy to see the feedback in the next few months,” said Harris.

“I see this as month one of five years and we will have five more changes ... I think this is the right thing to do and I am happy we finally got around to this adjustment.”

A city report suggests a monthly bill for a small water user using 5,000 litres of water per month will fall by 1.6 per cent and a bill for a larger water user using 35,000 litres of water per month will increase by 11.9 per cent.

The average household using 17,000 litres of water per month will pay $1.05 per 1,000 litres, a fixed rate of $19.30 and an overall bill of $37.15 each month. In 2012, this same household paid 90 cents per 1,000 litres and a fixed rate of $19.65, for a total bill of $34.95.

A typical household producing 15,300 litres of wastewater will pay 60 cents per 1,000 litres and a $33.90 fixed monthly fee, for a typical $43.08 monthly bill.

Residents will also pay $11.85, up from $11.70, a 1.3 per cent increase for residential garbage and yard waste collection, while multi-family and commercial users will pay 5.2 per cent more.

The fee for recycling collection will increase to $5.80 from $5.65, up 2.7 per cent, and to $4.25 from $4, up 6.3 per cent for multi-family users.

Landfill tipping fees will rise to $64 from $60 in 2012, up 3.2 per cent (a $2 per tonne increase).

Coun. Chris Stephan did not support the rate increases because he said many people in the community cannot afford the burden. Councillors Tara Veer and Frank Wong also did not support the rate changes.

Cost increases for all three utilities are primarily attributed to cost of capital and asset depreciation.

Waste management increases are also related to contracted services costs. All proposed changes are recommended to come into effect on March 1. Council will consider second and third reading at the next council meeting on Feb. 4.



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