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Lacombe City council approves updated Utility Bylaw

Lacombe City council at their regular meeting on Nov. 28 approved an updated Utility Bylaw 450 and endorsed a phase‐in strategy of a new utility rate structure starting in 2024.

Bylaw 450 is a major update to the City’s Utility Bylaw, which incorporates:

• A utility rate model developed in 2022 for the water, wastewater, and solid waste

utilities.

• Service level changes aimed at reducing staff time spent managing unpaid utility

accounts and manual meter readings.

• Alignment with current service levels (i.e., removing references to curbside recycling, and updating the Solid Waste Diversion Charts, elimination of redundant clauses and use of more straightforward and consistent language overall.

• Adding penalties for specific bylaw provisions to streamline Bylaw Officers’ enforcement of the Utility Bylaw.

“The updated Utility Bylaw intends to streamline the administration of the services provided by the City and create an equitable balance between businesses and residential utility costs in our community,” Mayor Grant Creasey said. “The creation of a transparent bylaw provides clarity and allows for long-term planning for residents and business owners alike.”

Bylaw 450 includes a utility rate increase for 2023 based on the average utility revenue requirements in each utility for 2024‐2027 as estimated by the City’s utility rate model, capped at 5.4 percent (the 12‐month average Alberta CPI increase)

• Service Level Change #1: Accounts in the name of the owner

Bylaw 450 stipulates that all new accounts are to be in the name of the property owner, requiring existing tenant accounts to transition into the name of the owner. This change affects approximately 836 tenant accounts. This means that regardless of the mailing address the bill is sent (as selected by the owner) the owner is responsible for the bill.

• Service Level Change #2: Manual meter reading frequency

The City has approximately 40 manual read accounts, which are currently read monthly. An operator must physically check manual read meters, and the updated reading must be manually entered into the billing system for each account. The City charges $25 per month per manual read account. Bylaw 450 changes the reading frequency to quarterly. Because this reduces staff time on the manual reading process, the proposed monthly charge is $8.50 per month.

• Service Level Change #3: Charging for unmetered water used by developers

Bylaw 450 includes a charge to land developers for the cost of water based on a pipe volume calculation. The City will calculate the water charge and include it in the Development Agreement, so it is known upfront.

• Service Level Change #4: Alignment with Current Service Levels

Bylaw 450 aligns with current services levels by making the following changes:

▪ Removing references to curbside recycling,

▪ Updating the Solid Waste Diversion Charts in Schedule D.

Council also approved a five‐year transition, starting in 2024, to a new utility rate structure. The new structure shifts some of the City’s fixed costs to non‐residential customers to address issues where the City’s residential customers are paying for a disproportionate share of the City’s fixed costs.

The model accomplishes this by introducing a tiered disposal fee for all non‐residential City utility customers, regardless of whether they utilize City collection services. The model also introduces tiered water and wastewater fixed fees based on customer meter size and wastewater service line size to address less significant rate inequities in those utilities.

In 2023, administration will advise non‐residential customers of the pending rate changes and provide them with an avenue to adjust their fixed rate tier (i.e., install a smaller meter, or reduce the number of solid waste bins or tipping frequency).

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