County adopts a ‘more practical’ way to deal with overdue accounts

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Big Lakes County has updated its water and wastewater bylaw to determine a more practical way to collect on overdue water accounts.

Council gave all three readings to the amended bylaw at its May 8 meeting.

The main change, said Reeve Tyler Airth, is that property owners will be responsible for their renters when it comes to payment.

“In the future, bills will be directed to the property owner,” Airth said. “Any new accounts will (also) be directed to the owners.”

Water service will be turned off to any renter who has not paid in full 40 days after the due date, though the new rules seek to avoid that happening as much as it has been.

The bylaw was discussed and tabled at the April 10 council meeting, after council requested more information.

The key revision, County Director of Operations Kevin Cymbaluk told council on May 8, is “transferring landowners’ outstanding balances to the tax roll, to eliminate shut-offs due to non-payment.”

No additional rental accounts will be established, Cymbaluk continued, but, “the existing accounts will be allowed to continue until they are gradually phased out through attrition, over time.”

Big Lakes has about 1,200 water accounts; 91 of them are with renters.

Shutting off water for non-payment is fairly common, Cymbaluk told council. On average, the county does 10 of them every two months.

An important factor to consider, Cymbaluk said, is the cost the county incurs in the winter months, hiring a contractor to thaw out frozen valves that have been shut off for non-payment, when they have to be turned on again.

“This can easily add up to $1,000 per occurrence,” he said, “plus the cost of staff time and parts if an item is broken during the event.”

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