Red Deer’s rising utility rates ‘too much’, says councillor

Red Deer residents can’t afford to keep paying ever-increasing utility bills, said a city councillor.

Red Deer residents can’t afford to keep paying ever-increasing utility bills, said a city councillor.

A report to city council shows the typical household will pay $97.85 a month in utility fees this year, up from $64.71 in 2008, a 51 per cent increase.

That’s too much, Coun. Chris Stephan said Monday. “It doesn’t need to go up at this rate.”

Most people’s incomes haven’t increased by more than 50 per cent in the last five years and many are on fixed incomes, he added.

“I don’t think that those types of increases are sustainable. I think we need to look a lot harder at our utilities because that does have a large impact on people.”

Stephan voted against the rate schedule, along with Coun. Frank Wong.

Wong said although he keeps his water use low, he saves little because the fixed costs make up such a large portion of residents’ bills.

“I don’t think it’s fair because the fixed costs are so high.”

City manager Craig Curtis said utility costs are rising, mostly because of the improvements that need to be made to water and wastewater treatment systems to comply with new government regulations. Operating costs are not rising that much year over year.

The city has little choice but to ensure its treatment systems are up to standard, he said.

“It’s a safety issue. And a safety issue has to be addressed. We have no choice.”

Curtis agreed though that there is little incentive under the existing rate system for people to save water. It is hoped an upcoming review of utilities will provide more options for reducing people’s bills if they use less water.

Coun. Paul Harris said making the connection between consumption and utility rates will make a big difference in encouraging people to conserve water.

“Right now, we have no way to do that.”

Under the new utility charges passed on Monday the following rate changes apply:

• Up nine per cent — Water treatment and distribution fees (Typical monthly bill $39.17, up from $35.94 in 2011)

• Up nine per cent — Wastewater collection and treatment (Typical bill $41.32, up from $37.91 in 2011)

• No change — Solid waste collection and disposal ($11.70)

• No change — Recycling collection ($5.65)

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