Lacombe ratepayers will officially see some increases in their municipal utility rates in 2019.
During their regular meeting Monday, Lacombe city council gave final approval to the rates, which will see solid waste, and per unit waste water consumption rates jump, effective Jan. 1.
“Revenues and expenses in the city’s self-supported utility departments are balanced in this year’s operating budget,” said Justin de Bresser, senior manager of financial services. “An average household will see a combined utility bill increase of $12.90 a month.”
Monthly water rates will remain the same with a flat $26.22 per month rate, and per unit consumption o $2.47 per cubic litre. However, those who use the city’s bulk water dispensary system will see an increase of $4.75 per cubic metre from $4.50, due to software implementation allowing customers to use credit cards and prepaid accounts.
Wastewater will see a larger increase, due to the North Red Deer Regional Waste Water System coming online last year. While the fixed monthly rate will stay at $20, the per unit consumption rate will jump 50 cents from $2.15 to $2.65 per cubic metre of effluent. The cost covers the “variable costs of treatment and the charges by the North Red Deer Regional wastewater Commission” as per a city release.
The largest increases, however, will come in the area of solid waste as a result of increases to cost of a third party compost provider. Residential rates will increase by $3.90 to a total of $31.76 per month. Apartment rates will jump $2.70 to a total of $19.97 per unit per month. Modular home park rates will also increase by $2.70 to a total of $24.49 per month.
Commercial rates will increase even more with an increase of $6.90 to a total of $116.79 per bin monthly. Additional cardboard pickup will increase by the same amount to $106.79 per month, while unscheduled pickups are now set at $58.39 per commercial waste pickup, and $53.39 for cardboard.
While council generally was in agreement rates were to cover costs of providing such services to those in the community, Coun. Chris Ross wasn’t convinced commercial solid waste rates should be increasing.
During first reading in December, he said it didn’t make sense to raise the rates if the city wasn’t going to remain competitive with private collectors, and echoed much of those same concerns Monday evening.
“Hypothetically, if a commercial business sees another increase, they’re on the bridge of making the decision to move away from a city-provided service that’s a revenue generator and to a private contractor,” Ross said. “I don’t agree with increasing these rates unless we know where the private sector is…I have yet to hear that information.”
Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy said administration had not done a complete analysis of what the private sector was charging for solid waste removal compared to the city, but confirmed it was one of the items they planned to look at as part of the upcoming solid waste audit. An accelerated timeline of that audit is expected during spring budget adjustments.
Other councillors agreed they would wait for a full review, rather than hold off the increases, which would in turn impact the budget and cause problems with utility billing for the month of January.
Ross was the only councillor to vote against all three readings.