Utility bills rising for some Central Albertans

Residents in six Central Alberta communities will see their utility bills rise significantly over the next three to five years.

Residents in six Central Alberta communities will see their utility bills rise significantly over the next three to five years.

Elaine Vincent, Red Deer’s Director of Development Services, said communities in the south region will now have to pay their share for treatment and collection of wastewater.

The City of Red Deer has a contract with the South Regional Wastewater Commission to provide services to communities such as Innisfail, Bowden, Olds, Mountain View County, Red Deer County and Penhold.

“We had not allocated the plant costs appropriately to the commission,” said Vincent. “This fixes this. We will allocate a portion of the plant costs to them.”

In order to avoid too much of a rate shock, administration recommended a 14.3 per cent rate increase to the customers over the next three to five years to bring the rate in line. The rate will rise to 80 cents per cubic metre in 2015 from 70 cents per cubic metre in 2014.

Over the last few weeks, the city has met with the South Regional Wastewater Commission. Vincent said the city has heard from communities that are not happy with the increase.

“We have offered to meet with them to explain the rationale,” said Vincent. “I know they are working with a rate reviewer to review how we calculated our rates to make sure that it makes sense for them.”

Council gave first reading of the utility bylaw that sets the rates for the regional and city customers on Monday.

On the city side, the average household utility bill in Red Deer way rise by a $1.75 to $100.70 per month from $99.05 in 2014.

The city went through a value-for-money audit a couple years ago.

Vincent said residents are getting value for money on those utilities.

“When you take a look at those percentage increases on an annual basis, costs are increasing but when it comes to you as an end user you are only seeing that dollar value translated,” said Vincent. “We think it’s good value for money. The overall percentage amount was one per cent.”

Anyone wishing to provide input on the proposed regional utility rates are asked to submit written comments to Legislative Services on the second floor of City Hall.

In other council news:

l A proposal for a map pinpointing the crime in Red Deer was squashed before it even hit the council floor.

“It was a new aspect for council to deal with,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “The members of council expressed more interest for more information. So we may very well see that motion come forward at another time.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan’s raised the need for crime mapping in city and brought forward a notice of motion on the issue.

But he was unable to defend or advocate for the project because he left the meeting as required under the Municipal Government Act if a councillor is in a conflict of interest.

The way the original motion was worded Buchanan would have been in a conflict because he sits on the Central Alberta Crime Prevention board.

In the motion, Buchanan asked the city to work with RCMP and the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre to develop a crime mapping system.

l The Red Deer Emergency Services Station 3 may be relocate to a site just west of Notre Dame High School on the northeast corner of 30th Avenue and Lees Street.

Council gave first reading to an area structure plan amendment that will pave the way for relocation of the fire station to the proposed site from the existing location on 4340 32nd St. as part of the growth strategy in the city. Council also authorized $8.8 million in borrowing for the relocation of Station 3 and Station 4 to Timberlands from 30 Davison Drive. The locations are expected to operational in mid-2016.

l Council voted to borrow roughly $110 million for a number of community projects. Some big borrowing items includes $20 million to build and enhance facilities for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

New builds and upgrades will include work at the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area to host biathlon and cross country skiing and at the Canyon Ski Hill for freestyle ski and snowboarding. A short track speed skating oval will be built at Great Chief Park and a long track speed skating and squash courts will be built at Red Deer College’s planned health, wellness and sport centre.

In June 2014, council approved a $26 million capital budget for the national sporting competition, of which $6 million is expected to come from the federal and provincial governments.

Council authorized the city to borrow roughly $31 million to replace the Red Deer Arena, build the North Red Deer Regional Community Centre and expand the downtown RCMP detachment.

The 2015 Capital budget allocated $8.8 million for detailed design and construction of the north Red Deer community centre. The recommended site is at the corner of 77th Street and Taylor Drive, near Glendale School.

A total of $334,000 was approved in the 2011 budget for the concept design and site preparation.

A total of $21.5 million was also approved to replace the 1950s-built Red Deer Arena. Recent engineering assessment of the roof structure and beams identified that significant repair is needed if the building is to continue to operate. There’s an interim monitoring system in place to monitor the existing truss system and the structure.

As part of this capital project, the combined parking lots for the Red Deer Arena, Kinex, Parks Amenities Shop, Pidherney Centre Curling Rink and Skate Board Park will need to be resurfaced in 2018. It has been 30 years since the parking lots were resurfaced.

The downtown RCMP detachment is facing a space crunch. Council approved $1 million to develop the second floor of the building. The plain clothes unit will move up to the second floor.

The city will fund the three projects from the capital project reserve ($334,000), the recreation amenity fund ($450,000) and debenture ($31.8 million)

The Taylor Drive linkage and the south east sector transportation improvements will require $16.1 million in borrowing.