Town council changes direction on water billing

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The ultimate plan for utility billing in Slave Lake is still to replace all non-functioning water meters with new units on warranty. In the meantime, town council has decided not to go with the earlier-announced flat rate across the board for residential customers. This happened after a public outcry convinced them to take a closer look at other options.

“This is not a home run,” said mayor Tyler Warman, of the new plan that was before council at its Mar. 6 meeting. “But the best we can do.”

What was recommended was a method by which two years of historical water consumption data would be taken into account for every customer with a failed meter. The average monthly amount would be charged. Christina Ridley, presenting the report for council, said this would take an estimated 80 hours of staff time to figure out. On the plus side, once set up it would not take any extra work to run. And of course it would only be temporary, until those promised warranty replacements come in.

On the minus side, this method would not take into account all sorts of possible scenarios that might have skewed the historical usage numbers, such as leaks and periods of vacancy.

And there are new accounts with no history to go by.
But that’s what was recommended, and that’s what council chose.

Councillor Rebecca King asked about residences that are vacant for part of the year. What they should do, Ridley said, “is notify us in writing and we will shut off the cc valve and won’t bill them.”

Councillor Brice Ferguson asked if customers will be notified of the coming change to their bills. They will, Ridley said.

There are approximately 1,000 failed meters in Slave Lake. The town has been pestering the manufacturer to replace them, but it is facing a demand for such replacements far beyond its capacity. The town did receive 200 replacements last month. In a Feb. 23 conference call with the supplier, mayor and council were promised 1,000 more by May of this year.

“We do not have an exact date on this,” said Ridley in her written report, “but will see if they follow through.”

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