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Clarification offered on utility fees

Posted on January 16, 2014 by Maple Creek

Dear Editor,

In response to the letter to the editor in the January 7 Advance Times regarding utility bills, I would like to clarify some points.

The $50 flat rate is for the first 3,000 gallons of water usage and costs to maintain the water main in the street plus the sewer main in the street, and the lift stations that pump that sewer, and the lagoon and effluent ponds. This charge is on your bill which comes out every third month, or quarterly.

The ¾ inch water line you had installed for $200 was a while back and it was a bargain! The cost is higher now as we try to recover the cost of installing it on your property. The same stands with the sewer lines, from the sewer main in the street to your house is your line for your service only, therefore it is your cost to maintain it. This practice is in most every town where ever you may live, and the services are still affordable. If you would like an example I will give you one from experience. My son and his spouse just bought a house in Drayton Valley, Alberta. The day they moved in the sewer plugged up (Grey Cup day). The next day they called to have the line camera ran onto it. It cost them $310. Here it is usually a free service by the Town. If they wanted a roto rooter ran through it would be another $400, here it is $50. The camera showed that the line was collapsed so it needed replacement, they had a home inspection done prior to purchase, but sewer isn’t included and no one – from real estate agent to lawyer or family – disclosed this so they got stuck with replacing it. The cost after three weeks of waiting was $5,000! All work there is by private contractor not the Town. The next lowest price was $8,000 from the contractor that does all the Town work.

The $2,000 for the water treatment plant was indeed a shock to everyone. In saying that, the water treatment facility is paid for and we have excellent water. If we were to build that same plant today it would be in the area of $5 million to $6 million! We paid $3 million and have a state-of-the-art facility that will last for many years with proper maintenance, which it is getting. Water is expensive to treat and we did have to increase the rates a bit to “break even.” Compare to other communities and it is still a bargain.

Now let’s talk garbage! The garbage service we provide is like any other town of our size. The environmental laws have been updated as to how we maintain our landfill etc. We did perform a major cleanup of our landfill earlier in 2013 and will do more in 2014. The landfills have to be managed better and garbage covered each day. This prevents anything from blowing into neighbouring farm land and pastures and having to be cleaned up. It also makes it a lot less nerve wracking when the inspector comes to look at it, which he does every few months! There have been a few landfills closed due to negligence of operators and environmental enforcement as the rules have changed. We don’t want to be on that list and we won’t be, they are impressed with the action we took without having to be told. After many requests from users, we have extended the hours of operation of the landfill as you probably have seen. Because the gate has to be supervised at all times when open we had shorter hours so the attendant could cover refuse. Now we have two employees there so it can be open to better serve the ratepayer and satisfy the environmental code. The cost of operation has never been completely covered by the rates charged on your utility bill, that is why we are going to start charging “tippage fees” as does every other landfill in the country. Any service such as this costs money to run.

As to the statement about the Manor and Sunglo, they have always paid for garbage pickup. It was Sask Housing (owner) that paid it, they have decided to pass that cost on to the seniors, not us! We have been working with the Manor and Sunglo residents to see if we can streamline the service to help make it better manageable for the residents.

Now the recycling fee. We agree that when one pays it at the store we should get something back! The paper project that the Town runs is a very efficient operation. We keep many tons of cardboard and paper out of our landfill by operating this facility. It does cost money to be a “good environmental citizen,” but it would cost us in landfill maintenance and expansion if we didn’t have the paper project in operation.

My utility bill is around $180 every quarter, so $60 per month for water, sewer, garbage and recycling. Again compare with other communities and you will find we are in the same range or less.

Mayor Barry Rudd

Town of Maple Creek

 

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