Water rates rising in Big Lakes

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Rates for water have officially increased in Big Lakes County.

At its Jan. 13 meeting, county council adopted a bylaw to raise the rate to $6.05 per cubic meter, from $5.45. That’s just over an 11 per cent increase.

The new fee is still far below the full recovery cost, of about $7.50 per cubic meter, council heard.

CAO Jordan Panasiuk told council the increase will add $8 to $10 to the monthly bill of the average user.

Some councillors think council should have gone even further.

“I still don’t think that’s enough,” said reeve Ken Matthews. “That’s not considering inflation and the cost of recovery.”

Matthews said the county may face a financial crunch in the coming years, if the rate charged to customers doesn’t recover the cost of providing the service.

“If we don’t catch up to the cost, we’ll get into trouble,” he predicted.

Matthews had voiced those same concerns when council gave the first two readings to the bylaw at its Dec. 9 meeting. He added that many people don’t use the county water system and are subsidizing the service.

“Most people use dugout water,” said councillor David Marx, agreeing. “We have to get up to the cost of production.”

Councillor Ann Stewart disagreed, saying now is not the time for a greater increase, as many people are struggling financially due to the pandemic.

Adopting the bylaw, council also increased the dog pound boarding fee to $30 from $25 and added a $15 administration fee for fines collected on behalf of the Town of High Prairie for dogs captured in the town.

Also being considered is an increase in rates for dust control. What’s proposed is for the fees to cover 100 per cent of the cost of materials for the first application (up from 75 per cent) and 75 per cent for the second application (up from 50).

These were presented as a separate agenda item at the Jan. 27 meeting.

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