Mayor’s corner: Water meter issues and utility accounts

Tyler Warman
Mayor of Slave Lake

So… it has been an interesting week being an elected official. This week we made a variety of decisions and one of them had to do with water meters.

Essentially, we have a mechanical problem with some of the meters and are trying to determine short and long-term solutions to fix it. We posted some information on Feb. 22, in a blog on a water rate change and within 24 hours, the power of the public voice came shouting back.

This change struck a chord with a variety of residents. Council and administration heard loud and clear residents felt we were on the wrong path. As such we went back to the drawing board to take a harder look at what we were doing.

So first off, I recommend you read the first blog on water meters, because the issue hasn’t changed. We have meters that are failing and no definitive timeline of when the warranteed replacements are coming. We have over 1,000 meters that are no longer sending us data. Over the long term we need to have meters.

Water conservation is something we should all be concerned about. Some of our funding is tied to it and people should be charged for what they use if we can do it. In the medium term, we are not certain if warranteed meters with the existing company, new meters with existing company or new meters from another company are the answer. The cheapest and easiest is to wait for warranteed ones and see how they perform.

Due to the fact this is mainly a battery issue, we would still have to give it time to see if it works or not. Either way, this problem is not going to be fixed overnight. As a result we need to deal with utility bills in the interim.

Our initial thought was just to use a resident’s history, but because they have all been failing at different rates and seasonally the data changes, this would be more difficult than a person would think. This, combined with the fact that people move, renters change, families get bigger and sometimes get smaller, makes it tough to stay up with what is fair and justifiable.

As such we leaned towards essentially sharing the costs equally. Everybody paying the same rate. What could be more fair than that? The problem with that is large families pay the same as individuals.
Additionally, people who conserve water pay the same as those who put no effort into it.

It’s not perfect, but we thought sharing equally was a good temporary solution. That being said, we heard loud and clear the public didn’t have faith in that option.

So this morning council, along with administration, went back to the drawing board and looked a little harder. We know there are other options, but there are problems with them as well.

Our current plan at this point is to call a “time-out.” We want to go back and look a little harder at the logistical issues with the other options and see if we can overcome them. After spending all day on it today, I believe we can come up with something that’s a little easier for all of us to live with.

All in all this will only be a temporary solution while we work towards a plan of having working meters back in place.

Fortunately, Council was able to get some updated information out of the metering company today that allowed us to feel a little more comfortable about actually achieving success in the future. They will provide us with some updated timelines next week and we will see if they meet them.

In closing, I want to thank residents for voicing their concerns. We appreciate feedback and know we are not perfect. We do the best we can with the information we have and the challenges we face on a daily basis. No matter what solution we come up with, it won’t be perfect. Our goal is to come up with something we can all live with until we have the equipment to do the job right. We appreciate your patience and understanding and will keep you informed as we work through solutions. Thanks for listening and thanks for speaking up! Sometimes it takes a whole community to find the right answer.

I hope our residents have this kind of passion during our community beach clean up later this spring!

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