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Canmore utility rates could see increase in 2023, 2024

Town staff recommended a series of increases to the different utilities that, if approved, would lead to a residential increase of up to $54.40 for the four services in 2023 and a potential additional $49.58 in 2024, according to the averages presented at the Tuesday (Nov. 22) finance committee meeting.
Canmore Civic Centre in winter 3
The Canmore Civic Centre. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – A potential increase in water, wastewater, recycling and waste rates are on the table.

Town staff recommended a series of increases to the different utilities that, if approved by Canmore council, would lead to a yearly residential increase of up to $54.40 for the four services in 2023 and a potential additional $49.58 a year in 2024, according to the averages presented at the finance committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 22).

Andreas Comeau, the Town’s manager of public works, told the finance committee the potential 10 to 12.9 per cent water increases in 2023 and 2024 as well as the 0.8 to 3.3 per cent wastewater increases would be needed to balance water and wastewater reserves, which are vital to assist with growth and necessary infrastructure replacement and maintenance.

The utility revenue requirements for 2022 are $11.7 million to meet expenses and meet the Town’s reserve target of $8 million. It’s projected to be $12.4 million in 2023 and $13 million in 2024.

“We determine what our operating expenses our. We determine what our capital plan is and we also determine our assumptions in growth, accounts and then we play around with how much more money does the utility need," said Comeau. "Not the individual rates, but how much more water the total utility needs to satisfy all of those expenses as well as insuring we still meet the $8 million reserve balance.”

The split in revenue requirements in 2022 is 32 per cent for water and 68 per cent for wastewater. It’s expected to go to 35 per cent water and 65 per cent wastewater in 2023, then 37 per cent water in 2024, and 63 per cent wastewater until a 40-60 split for water and wastewater is reached.

Revenue collected is about 54 per cent from the commercial sector and the remainder is from residential.

Fixed and variable water, wastewater rates could see a double digit percentage increase in 2023 that equates to between $25.44 to $46.20 based on usage of 15 cubic metres per month.

If approved, the proposed recycling and waste costs per household would see a five per cent increase for an extra $21.36 a year to $37.11 per month. The commercial rate would jump by $14.52 a year to $25.31 per month.

The largest proposed utility project is the replacement of pumphouse No. 2 at a potential $20 million. The project was originally proposed in 2018, but was pushed back due to financial pressures from the new fire hall project and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project, if approved, is expected to take until at least 2024 to finish, which will limit the ability of the Town to see more growth until it’s nearing completion.

“It’s imperative it begins in 2023,” Comeau said, noting it is a "critical piece of infrastructure.”

Comeau said the pumphouse cost was estimated to be $12 million in the 2016 utility master plan, but after discussions with contractors found prices have escalated, adding the municipality would have a “significant contingency” for further price fluctuation.

When Coun. Wade Graham asked for further clarification on the amount that had been set aside for the contingency, CAO Sally Caudill said there could be reasons to not disclose it such as contractually.

Comeau said the Town doesn’t yet know how much the project will cost until a tender is received, but it is expected to be below $20 million. It will also receive $2.5 million in grant funding.

“This is a time sensitive project. If we look at a scenario where we start to pare back the budget and we put ourselves at risk for now not having sufficient funds and having to come back (to council), ultimately, it delays the project,” he said. “This market does not really allow you to ask contractors to hold pricing for more than 30 days, which is way more than it takes for administration to come back in front of council.”

Town staff are in the process of finalizing the 2022 utility master plan, which is anticipated to return to council in early 2023.

The province, which approves the regulatory framework, had asked for more stringent guidelines on ammonia and phosphorous removal that’s discharged into the Bow River basin.

Comeau said the province is aiming to see phosphorous removal dip by about 50 per cent and the province is either doing or will be doing the same for other communities on the basin, noting algae growth from phosphorous is a concern to Alberta Environment and the impact it has on fish habitats.

He added the Town is exceeding the province’s existing standards of 1.0 milligrams per litre for phosphorous at 0.5 mg/l. The province is aiming to have the regulation be at 0.5 mg/l, which leaves little room for error for the Town of Canmore.

“We’ll have to put something in place, so we’re consistently below 0.5 because you can’t operate a way where you’re right up against the ceiling of the regulation,” he said.

Administration reported the total tonnes of phosphorous discharged would increase as the community grows.

“There are some significant unknowns right now and when the utility master plan returns we’ll be sharing that information with council," said Whitney Smithers, the Town’s general manager of infrastructure. "When we have a better indication of costs and impacts to the Town we’ll come forward with that information."

Full town build-out is estimated at 30,000 people, but the population model is regularly updated. The population total includes full-time residents, whereas commercial use for hotels are considered above that total.

The Town also has agreements with Harvie Heights to provide residential water to Dead Man’s Flats, which has a build-out of 1,700 people.

“It does evolve over time as the community builds out and plans change,” Smithers said. “It’s updated regularly to capture those changes as best we can.”


POTENTIAL WATER, WASTEWATER UTILITY RATE INCREASE

2023 (ALL RATES BASED ON 15 CUBIC METRES PER MONTH)

  • Water (fixed): $22.12 per month after $19.58 per month in 2022 for a 12.9 per cent increase.
  • Water (variable): $1.03 per month after $0.94 per month in 2022 for a 10.2 per cent increase per cubic metre.
  • Wastewater (fixed): $41.08 per month after $39.77 per month in 2022 for a 3.3 per cent increase.
  • Wastewater (variable): $1.91 per month after $1.90 per month in 2022 for a 0.8 per cent increase per cubic metre.
  • Water is proposed at $33.04 increase or 5.4 per cent.
  • Commercial accounts are expecting a five or 5.6 per cent increase based on the water metre size.

2024 (ALL RATES BASED ON 15 CUBIC METRES PER MONTH)

  • Water (fixed): $24.33 per month for a 10 per cent increase from 2023 proposed rates.
  • Water (variable): $1.14 per month for a 10.4 per cent increase from 2023 proposed rates per cubic metre.
  • Wastewater (fixed): $41.44 per month for a 0.9 per cent increase on potential 2023 rates.
  • Wastewater (variable): $1.94 per month for a 1.2 per cent increase on potential 2023 rates per cubic metre.
  • Water is proposed at $27.26 increase or 4.2 per cent.
  • Commercial accounts are expecting a 4.2 to 4.3 per cent increase based on the water metre size.

PROPOSED RECYCLING, WASTE COSTS PER HOUSEHOLD

2023

  • Residential recycling: $17.34 for a five per cent from $16.51 in 2022
  • Residential waste: $19.77 for a five per cent from $18.82 in 2022
  • Total: $37.11
  • Commercial recycling: $25.31 for a five per cent from 24.10
  • Residential increase is $1.78 per month or $21.36 a year
  • Commercial increase is $1.21 per month or $14.52 a year

2024

  • Residential recycling: $18.21 for a five per cent from 2023 proposed rates.
  • Residential waste: $20.76 for a five per cent from 2023 proposed rates.
  • Total: $38.97
  • Commercial recycling: $26.58 for a five per cent from 2023 proposed rates.
  • Residential increase is $1.86 per month or $22.32 a year
  • Commercial increase is $1.27 per month or $15.24 a year

UTILITY CAPITAL PROJECTS

2023

  • Pumphouse 2 replacement and capacity upgrade: $20 million
  • Bow Valley Trail wastewater phase two upgrade: $3.1 million
  • Bow Valley water phase two upgrade: $1.75 million
  • Wastewater treatment plant UV disinfection system lifecycle: $700,000
  • TOTAL: $25.5 million

2024

  • Railway Avenue wastewater upgrade: $2.4 million
  • Vactor utility truck replacement: $900,000
  • Wastewater influent screen capacity upgrade: $900,000
  • Bow Valley Trail wastewater phase three upgrade: $600,000
  • Elk Run sewer main upgrade design: $200,000
  • Wastewater treatment plant odour control design: $200,000
  • TOTAL: $5.2 million

SOLID WASTE CAPITAL PROJECTS

2023

  • Small container replacement: $150,000
  • Large container replacement: $150,000
  • One tonne large item collection vehicle: $100,000
  • Waste characterization study: $100,000
  • Boulder Crescent design: $80,000
  • Scale platform safety upgrade: $50,000
  • TOTAL: $630,000

2024 (Funded from solid waste reserve)

  • Three tonne collection vehicle replacement: $350,000
  • Large container replacement: $150,000
  • Small container replacement: $150,000
  • TOTAL: $650,000