High River Council Decides to Keep Winter Averaging and Remove the Inclining Block Structure for Utility Fees

HIGH RIVER, AB: At its regular meeting Tuesday, High River Council directed Administration to retain the current practice of winter averaging for wastewater within the Town’s utility rate fees and to eliminate the current inclining block rate structure for water. As per this direction, Administration will amend the Town’s Rate Bylaw (4531-2018) and present it back to Council for further review in November.

“With Council’s direction, the amended bylaw will better streamline the Town’s utility rate structure, redistribution of revenue between residential and non-residential and align with other municipal structures,” says Ray MacIntosh, manager of accounting services with the Town.

Earlier this year, Administration proposed amendments to the bylaw that would create an overall increase in utility rates for residential properties and decrease in utility rates for non-residential (commercial) properties. However, based on concerns from the public during two separate information sessions about the proposed amendments, Council directed Administration to further review the amendments and come up with some other options that would address these concerns.

The primary areas of concern were the elimination of winter averaging for wastewater and the elimination of inclining block rate structure for water. By removing the practice of winter averaging, many residents were concerned that they now would be charged a higher price to keep their yards and gardens adequately watered during the summer months. For some, eliminating winter averaging also meant taking away the opportunity to share the responsibility of keeping High River beautiful and green.

“We found out during the information sessions that many residents were watering trees, turf and shrubs on boulevards and other public spaces,” says MacIntosh. “For these residents, winter averaging provides them with the capability to give back to the community and keep High River beautiful.”

Residents were also concerned that by eliminating the inclining block rate structure there would be no incentive to conserve water.

“As the inclining block rate structure is set up now, residents are charged a flat rate for water usage, plus a price per consumption level, no matter how much water is consumed,” says MacIntosh. “This, however, doesn’t necessarily motivate residents to conserve water because families are already using what they need. For example, larger families need to consume more water than smaller families.”

Water is a precious resource – to that everyone agrees. Decisions that are made today will impact the future of High River and those who currently or in the future call the community their home. To this end, one of the priorities Council has established within the their 2019 to 2022 Strategic Plan is to begin making a positive difference now and for generations to come.

“The changes we are making to the Rate Bylaw today allows us the ability to sufficiently cover the operating and capital costs for the Town’s utilities systems, while also maintaining adequate reserves to replace the aging systems and introduce major water and waste water plant upgrades over the next 5 to 15 years,” says MacIntosh.

For more information, visit highriver.ca.