User fee increases recommended

Fees for garbage collection, recycling, landfill, water and wastewater services may be rising March 1 in Red Deer.

Fees for garbage collection, recycling, landfill, water and wastewater services may be rising March 1 in Red Deer.

On Thursday, City of Red Deer Environmental Services manager Tom Warder presented his department’s proposed operating budget that includes recommended fee increases for users of these services. Council would have to approve rate increases through bylaws coming in late January or early February.

Residential garbage collection would rise to $10.90 a month, or a 11.8 per cent increase. Commercial collection would increase 7.3 per cent.

Recycling for residents would climb to $5.65 a month or a 9.7 per cent increase from last year.

Landfill rates would increase to $55 per tonne, a $2 increase from 2009.

Warder said the increases are partially necessary to cover increased costs from contractors doing the work. The city will be tendering a new contract in 2010 for solid waste collection, including yard waste and recycling.

He added the recycling market is doing better than it was last year.

The city is also doing major plant expansions for water and wastewater utilities.

“We’ll be spending about $100 million in each of the utilities over the next five years,” Warder said. “We need to build up our capital reserve to do that and to pay as you go.”

Red Deer water rates are the lowest of 15 Alberta cities. The average monthly cost for a Red Deer household was nearly $29.

Warder is recommending a 12 per cent increase in water rates this year, and he figures the same will be asked for next year.

He said residents are getting a good deal, even with the increase.

Councillor Gail Parks suggested Warder return next year with a 15 to 17 per cent increase in water rates because aging infrastructure is also an expense factor.

A 13 per cent increase in wastewater rates is also being recommended by Warder. Red Deer’s average monthly cost in 2009 was nearly $31 — rates that are currently in the upper third among Alberta’s cities.

The Public Works department also presented its base operational budget of $9.7 million, down from $10.6 million in 2009.

Manager Greg Sikora said $2,180,000 is being sought for snow removal in 2010. In 2009, the city budgeted $2,133,000 for 2009 and then had to find another $965,000 within the division’s 2009 budget because of heavy December snowfalls.

Councillor Lynne Mulder said a review of the snow removal policy may be warranted.

One was done a couple of years ago that involved community input on snow removal priorities.

“We certainly do get a lot of queries, but I think it’s because people don’t know what should happen and I don’t think they realize how much it costs for snow removal,” Mulder said.

The department normally increases its road paving work by .5 per cent, but this year it’s recommending against that.

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