Residents likely spared steep rate hikes from regional sewer line

By PAUL COWLEY

Advocate staff

Lacombe and Blackfalds residents likely won’t face steep utility rate increases projected by the commission behind a regional sewage line.

Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol said those numbers represent a “worst-case scenario based on conservative estimates” and rate increases are not expected to be as drastic.

Wastewater bills in Blackfalds could jump to $72 per month from $43 for a typical household if costs are tacked on to the existing rate structure, says a business plan prepared by the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Services Commission.

When sewer and water bills are combined, the monthly cost per household could hit $162, up from $133, estimates the plan. In Lacombe, the combined rates could increase to $152 a month from $110.

There are a number of costs that residents are paying now that won’t be faced when the $72-million regional sewer line from Red Deer to Lacombe is completed sometime in 2018, she said on Monday.

The town now must pay for its own sewage treatment lagoons, which will be a significant cost saving. There is also a $10 surcharge on current utility bills that may not be required later on.

Stol said not going ahead with the regional sewer line would have required costly treatment upgrades that would have put a higher financial burden on taxpayers.

The regional sewer line is possible because 90 per cent of the cost is covered by the federal and provincial governments plus a contribution from the City of Red Deer. The rest will be covered by the Town of Blackfalds, City of Lacombe and Lacombe County.

“This is still the most cost-effective solution overall for our citizens,” said Stol. “If we didn’t go regional our costs would be even higher than what is presented here.”

Commission chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy said Blackfalds and Lacombe have started rate stabilization funds that will reduce their impact.

As well, the projected rates don’t take into account future developer contributions.

“We certainly don’t expect to see that sort of rate shock,” said Goudy, who is Lacombe’s operations and planning director.

“We wanted to present to the councils a sort of worst-case scenario to make sure everyone had eyes wide open going into this project.”

Lacombe city council was due to review the business plan on Monday night.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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