Trochu, Three Hills eye water deal with ATCO

Trochu and Three Hills are working on a unique deal with ATCO to provide water and wastewater services.

Trochu and Three Hills are working on a unique deal with ATCO to provide water and wastewater services.

Under the proposed partnership, ATCO Water would purchase a minority ownership interest in the two communities’ water and wastewater systems. ATCO would manage the combined operations and provide capital for future upgrades.

Trochu CAO Maureen Malaka said the communities have been working together and with ATCO for more than a year to work out the best way to manage water and sewer services. It is hoped the finishing touches can be put on a deal in coming months and ATCO will be ready to begin managing the services next summer. Trochu and Three Hills are only 15 km apart and have formed close ties when it comes to handling water and wastewater.

The communities’ water is drawn from the Red Deer River and treated at a facility in Three Hills and collected in a reservoir, which then feeds water to Trochu.

Malaka said one of the major advantages with working with ATCO is the company is able to provide the kind of expertise that can be difficult for smaller communities to maintain. Under provincial rules, an employee must work for a municipality for a year before they can be trained to operate water and wastewater systems.

Trochu Mayor Barry Kletke agrees hiring, training and retaining water and wastewater applicators has been a recurring challenge.

“A lot of communities are competing against each other for these individuals,” he said.

“ATCO has got a good name in how they treat their employees. We don’t think we’re going to be looking around for water, wastewater operators like we have in the past.” As a major corporation, ATCO also brings solid financial assets to the table.

“Infrastructure costs down the road are going to be such that communities — a lot of them — won’t have that capacity to keep up their infrastructure.

“Partnering up with ATCO I think we got a little bit of infrastructure dollars we can use down the road.”

The impact on local utility bills has yet to be determined. Kletke said bills may go up slightly at first.

But rates would go up much higher down the road if the community was left to bankroll its own staffing and infrastructure.

ATCO Energy Solutions vice-president and general manager Tony Salters said the company announced about a year ago that it planned to pursue water opportunities in Alberta, both for industrial and municipal customers.

Since then, the economic slowdown has thinned out some of the industrial opportunities. For instance, the eight upgraders on the drawing board for Alberta dwindled to a list of about three.

“Our focus was slightly changed to putting more effort on the municipal side.”

The Three Hills-Trochu is a kind of test case for ATCO’s strategy of taking the P-3 public, private partnership model and putting a little twist in it. Instead of building and operating and transferring an asset back to the public entity, ATCO intends to maintain a stake in the water and wastewater system through its minority ownership.

It’s a method of aligning all of the partners’ interests going forward. Salters said ATCO plans to minimize rate increases while providing expertise and capital investment.

Salters said the company is already in talks with other municipalities.

ATCO Water is a division of ATCO Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Canadian Utilities Ltd., which is part of ATCO Group.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

Neighbours drop opposition to Red Deer County communications tower

Communication tower to be located in Balmoral Heights

Legal cannabis comes with many unknowns: Red Deer County councillors

Councillors question how rural municipalities will be able to enforce cannabis regulations

Kitten season puts pressure on Red Deer shelter

More public education needed to control cat population

Video: Windows smashed at three Red Deer businesses

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vandalism spree

‘Start low, go slow’: Experts walk bud beginners through cannabis 101

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice… Continue reading

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Most Read