Balgonie water rate changes sent for provincial approval

            Balgonie’s council has given third reading and assent to a bylaw proposing an increase in local water and sewer rates for some ratepayers and decreases for others. Those changes, as approved at the town’s Nov. 8 council meeting, will be minimal for residential customers and more significant for commercial, out-of-town or larger-scale users.

            Town administrator Karen Craigie explained in a follow-up interview that the biggest reason for the increase is that council has not adjusted these rates since 2017. A one-page overview prepared by the town details other factors as well, including an end to the town subsidizing water and sewer rates through the general tax levy, as capital projects (new building projects) will now pay for infrastructure fees.

            Following third reading of Bylaw 427/2021, council made a motion for the proposed rate changes to be sent to Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) for review. If approved, rate changes would become effective January 1, 2022. The SMB has not given a timeline as to when the town will receive the board’s decision.

            The new bylaw lays out water rates and sewer charges from 2022 through 2024.

            Comparing minimum metered premises water charges of $69.15 in 2017 with the proposed new fee of $64.84 minimum monthly charge in 2022 would mean a six per cent decrease for residential properties using 3,300 gallons or less of water. Residents using 3,331 to 6,660 gallons had rates of $3.40 per gallon in 2017. Those rates per gallon increase to $4.50 in 2022, $4.75 in 2023 and $5.00 in 2024.

            Minimum charge residential sewer rates in 2017 of $48.41 would be lowered in 2022 to $45.39 – another six percent decrease.

            Another change in the 2021 bylaw sees the monthly sewer and quarterly lagoon upgrade surcharge fees replaced with a “quarterly utility infrastructure fee.” The fee makes a distinction between “consumers with both water and sewer connection” and “consumers with water only or sewer only connection.”

            More detail has been included in this year’s bylaw detailing rates paid for commercial properties, including commercial showers with a rate per shower stall, and commercial laundry with a rate per washing machine.

            “It’s a very minimal increase for the residents,” Craigie said. “The biggest change is overage. There’s going to be an increase to overage that will cost more for higher [water] consumers.”

            Craigie confirmed in a follow-up email that a higher fee for out-of-town water consumers is “to ensure costs are equitable” as those users of the resource have “not contributed to municipal taxes or development fees that have contributed to the expenses for capital utility infrastructure costs.”

            Craigie added that there are no lagoon capacity issues going into winter. Pilot Butte is home to the treatment plant which provides treated water, Balgonie owns the pipeline that delivers water from Pilot Butte to the town. Contracted rates between the two municipalities increase minimally and annually based on expected operational cost increases.

            Council also heard at its Nov. 8 meeting an update on the new lift station at the corner of Highway 364 and the Balgonie Bypass from town superintendent Shaun McBain.

            “In order to meet their needs for water and sewer and other undeveloped land, the town is building a lift station and extending water,” said Craigie.

            Costs for that lift station are being paid out of collected development fees, a grant, and funds collected from future development. Craigie said All-Rite Properties is planning for a late-spring opening but the exact date will be dependent on when their access roads are completed and other servicing agreement details are met. This will be the town’s fifth lift station.

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