Water fee issuse raised at Wheatland County council 0
Water is a hot item lately in Wheatland with the discussion of new fees related to water for the hamlets in the Wheatland county area.
On July 1, 2012 the residents of these hamlets were sent a letter telling them about an amendment to the fee schedule that would include a $20 fee that would be added to each resident's monthly bill. Along with this was a fee of $4,000 that would be added to every new connection.
Local resident and former Mayor of Gleichen, Russel Smith, attended the discussion on the new fee increase and raised some concerns with how the increase was dealt with.
"I feel like you put the horse before the cart," Smith said. "There should have been a hearing before the bylaw was passed."
Council explained that the reason there was no public discussion was because it was not a bylaw that was being passed but simply an amendment.
County Chief Financial Officer Pat Leech explained that the reason they sent the letter in July was because the fee increase would not take effect until the billing at the end of October to give residents time to give input and feedback into the changes.
Smith also felt that places such as Gleichen, who had almost paid off the cost of their sewer services, should not be charged the same as others who may not have paid off as much of their services.
Councillor Alice Booth explained that these funds would be kept in each individual hamlet to ensure that they would have the funds available in case of emergency.
"Places like Cluny had no fund in place should an emergency arise," said Booth. "This $20 fee is going to fix that."
Another issue arising from water in Wheatland County was the difference in billing between hamlet residents who are hooked up to the system and non-residents who purchase their water in bulk.
A letter from Gleichen resident Jacki Kirk discussed the issue that the water that is taken by commercial hauling is not metered and so she felt that the hamlet residents were paying for these and that their Western Irrigation District (WID) fees made for an unfair system.
It was explained at council that these WID fees were only charged to the county for hookups and that the system in place for bulk water sales was done on the honour system due to a previous study that showed it would cost the county more money than it would make to install a water metering system.
CFO Leech stated that the numbers that have been coming out of the reservoirs and the numbers that have been reported are nearly identical and that the honor system is working well. Leech also stated that the cost of $3.30/cubic meter for bulk water was much higher than what is being paid by residents.
Council has stated that all of this information will soon be available shortly on the county website in a frequently asked questions section.