Welcome

Welcome to my blog site. This is where I will share my thoughts and insights on life as a small town councillor.

A bit about me: I am a first time councillor with the Town of Black Diamond in southern Alberta. I have a family; my spouse and I and our son. We own a duplex with my sister and share a front and backyard. We try not to argue too often. I am self-employed. I like dogs and horses. I try to do as much of what I enjoy in life as opposed to what I hate. Speaking of my dislikes: I try not to waste, I don’t like olives at all and crowds make me nervous.

I look forward to sharing more about myself and what I see and do about town. Please feel free to contact me or leave comments. This blog is a place not just for me to ramble but for you to present your ideas, complaints, queries and thoughts.

I’ll end this introduction with one of my favourite thoughts, and I think a great way to look at life:

Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you. — Annie Dillard

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A sustainable high school

OHSlogo

I’ve been volunteering at Oilfields High School for the past semester with some interested students. Interested in what you ask? Interested in sustainability.

At the Town of Black Diamond’s Sustainability Fair, six kids spent their Saturday displaying and explaining what they are accomplishing when it comes to sustainability.

The students have three main focuses:

  • Fabric and costumes
  • Recycling and awareness
  • Construction

Now that summer is almost here, my volunteer time with the students has come to an end but my job is not done. I promised them I’d try to source out the tools and materials they need to keep going next fall. So, my lovely community, I’m asking nicely for some items.

The seamstresses and fabric artists have asked for:

  • a serger machine
  • fabric – except upholstery
  • embroidery thread
  • dyed wool (loose wool for felting)
  • buttons

The recycling and awareness group would very much like:

  • your attention – they have things to say
  • to learn more about our current (flawed) recycling system
  • a possible mentoring relationship with our local recycling providers
  • plywood to build recycling stations for the high school/elementary school

The builders of the group have dreams of a vertical hydroponic farm like this one on Instructables (a full materials list is included on this website) and a compost area on school property. This crew is hoping to find these materials:

  • 2″ and 3″ PVC pipe (schedule 40)
  • 2″ and 3″ PVC tees
  • 3″ PVC endcaps
  • 3/4″ PEX elbows and tees
  • water pump
  • LED lights (suitable for growing)
  • water pump timer
  • light timer
  • Raspberry Pi (fun but not completely necessary)
  • any local expertise on indoor growing and hydroponics

The composting crew would like:

  • buckets (to collect organic waste)
  • 2×6 or 2×8 lumber to construct the compost bins
  • compost thermometer
  • short spade(s) for turning the pile

The entire sustainability group, and likely the entire school would also welcome hand tools such as:

  • screwdrivers
  • small screwdrivers for taking apart electronics

If you have these items and wish to part with them, even if you have other items you’d like to donate, please, DO NOT drop them off at the school. Give me a call so either I or someone with ties to the sustainability group can take a look first. We do have some space to store the stuff until September so get cleaning, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Inter-municipal Economic Development

For the past six months, two councillors from Black Diamond, two from Turner Valley, along with administration from both towns have worked out the details and created an innovative joint venture for our communities.

Both Black Diamond and Turner Valley Councils approved the terms of reference and the bylaw to form the committee. The four council representatives; myself and Daryl Lalonde from Black Diamond and Jonathan Gordon and John Waring from Turner Valley, then set to work hiring a consultant. The role of the consultant is to create a new joint economic development plan.

The brand-new Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee needs members beyond council representation. There are six seats available to anyone, from either community. You don’t have to live here to be a member-at-large. We councillors wanted to keep membership open to any and all who have or had ties to the communities and have business experience.

Please see the volunteer job posting for more details.

No garbage, no recycling, no compost

justtheFACTS

No preamble; just the numbers for water, sewer and storm sewer.

Black Diamond pop. 2,700 (2016)

  • $21.50 flat rate for water
  • $21.50 flat rate for sewer
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $23.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)

Total: $90/month @ 10m³ based on both water and sewer consumption.

Calgary pop 1,239,000 (2016)

  • $15.87 water service charge
  • $27.48 waste water service charge
  • $15.94 storm water service charge
  • $15.99 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.5997/m³)
  • $13.19 sewer consumption (9m³ @ $1.456/m³)

Total: $88.47/month @ 10m³ water consumption and 9m³ sewer consumption

Chestermere pop 19,887 (2016)

  • $28.01 water service fee
  • $40.89 sewer service fee
  • $16.03 storm sewer fee
  • $3.56 lifecycle fee
  • $13.30 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.30/m³)
  • $12.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.25/m³)

Total: $114.29/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Cochrane pop 25,853 (2016)

  • $5.70 water base charge
  • $5.70 sewer base charge
  • $4.16 storm sewer fee
  • $11.16 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.16/m³)
  • $22.60 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.26/m³)

Total: $49.32/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Didsbury pop 5,268 (2016)

  • $ 15.00 wastewater collection fee
  • $14.00 water distribution fee
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $20.00 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.00/m³)

Total: $72.50/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption.

Drumheller pop 7,982 (2016)

  • $14.74 water base rate
  • $13.34 sewer base rate
  • $18.77 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.8775/m³)
  • $21.45 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.1453/m³)

Total: $68.30/month @ 10m³ of use, water and sewer.

Jasper pop 4,590 (2016)

  • $13.70 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.37m³)
  • $20.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.05m³)

Total: $34.20/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer use.

Okotoks pop (28,881) 2016

  • $8.75 flat fee for water
  • $8.43 flat fee for sewer
  • $15.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.55m³)
  • $22.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $6.50 storm sewer fee

Total: $61.68/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, all in.

Penhold pop 3,277 (2016)

  • $13.00 fixed charge per water meter
  • $11.00 fixed charge for sewer
  • $13.90 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.39m³)
  • $34.70 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $3.47m³)

Total: $72.60/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, and of course garbage.

Sundre pop 2,729 (2016)

  • $21.50 water service fee
  • $5.25 storm service fee
  • $21.50 sewer fee
  • $22.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $13.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.35m³)

Total: $84.25/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer consumption

Turner Valley pop 2,559 (2016)

  • $16.50 sewer base residential
  • $16.50 water base residential
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³)
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³) billed at 100% of water consumption

Total: $76.00/month @10m³ of use for water and sewer

 

Water talk

firehose

This is exactly how I felt as I collected all this utility rate data.

There has been lots of talk lately; talk about water, talk about the cost. I heard it said, “the Town of Black Diamond is the most expensive municipality in Alberta when it comes to water and sewer utilities.”

Surely this is not our claim to fame. Say it ain’t so.

Well, it isn’t.

For the past month, I’ve been collecting utility bills from my friends who live in other towns and cities around Alberta. I’ve also been on the phone to those towns and cities, checking and double checking their rate schedules and fees.

Know this: if I’ve included a municipality but no bill in the comparison that follows, I called to make sure the rates I publish here are correct.

I decided to compare all the services our town offers; water, sewer, recycling and garbage. I then used 10m³ as the consumption rate per month. Why? Because it’s so easy to use 10 as a multiplier and that’s apparently about what the average utility account uses per month; at least in Black Diamond.

That per month bit is important because Black Diamond’s bills come out every two months.

I’ll just get right into the data for you:

Black Diamond pop. 2,700 (2016)

Garbage, recycling and the flat rate are charged BI-MONTHLY, so I divided by 2 to get a monthly tally:

  • $10.22 for garbage
  • $4.68 for recycling
  • $21.50 flat rate for water
  • $21.50 flat rate for sewer
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $23.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)

Total: $104.90/month @ 10m³ based on both water and sewer consumption.

BDBill

Calgary pop 1,239,000 (2016)

The bill I have for the City of Calgary does not include a solid waste cost; this utility user pays condo fees towards garbage pick up. According to the city’s website, for 2019, garbage collection cost is $24.30 per month. The City of Calgary also bills sewer consumption at 90% of water consumption. There was a rate change during the billing cycle so the utility bill I have is a bit confusing. I accounted for it in my calculations by dropping the sewer consumption to 9m³ for the month.

  • $24.30 for garbage
  • $15.87 water service charge
  • $27.48 waste water service charge
  • $15.94 storm water service charge
  • $15.99 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.5997/m³)
  • $13.19 sewer consumption (9m³ @ $1.456/m³)

Total: $112.77/month @ 10m³ water consumption and 9m³ sewer consumption

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Chestermere pop 19,887 (2016)

I do not have a bill from the City of Chestermere but I did call CUI to make sure the rates were correct. Best guess for the lifecycle fee is it goes to future upgrades and maintenance.

  • $23.03 garbage
  • $4.09 recycling
  • $28.01 water service fee
  • $40.89 sewer service fee
  • $16.03 storm sewer fee
  • $3.56 lifecycle fee
  • $13.30 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.30/m³)
  • $12.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.25/m³)

Total: $141.41/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Cochrane pop 25,853 (2016)

The way Cochrane charges utility fees is similar to Black Diamond. They break down the recycling and garbage fees a bit more and have a fee dedicated to storm sewer.

  • $21.55 waste/recycling
  • $5.00 Eco Centre fee
  • $5.70 water base charge
  • $5.70 sewer base charge
  • $4.16 storm sewer fee
  • $11.16 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.16/m³)
  • $22.60 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.26/m³)

Total: $75.87/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Cochranebill

Didsbury pop 5,268 (2016)

  • $21.00 solid waste collection fee
  • $ 15.00 wastewater collection fee
  • $14.00 water distribution fee
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $20.00 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.00/m³)

Total: $93.50/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption.

Didsburybill

Drumheller pop 7,982 (2016)

Drumheller does not include solid waste fees on their bill. They use an outside contractor for solid waste services and the cost for that is attached to their property taxes. I called the Town of Drumheller and tried to get an average per month for garbage pick up, but since it’s rolled in with their property taxes, that information is hard to come by. I’m including Drumheller as it illustrates nicely that there are many ways to provide town services.

  • $2.50 recycling association
  • $14.74 water base rate
  • $13.34 sewer base rate
  • $18.77 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.8775/m³)
  • $21.45 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.1453/m³)

Total: without accounting for garbage $70.80/month @ 10m³ of use.

DrumhellerBill

Jasper pop 4,590 (2016)

Jasper bills bi-monthly as well, so I divided their fees by two. They do not pay a flat fee for water or sewer connections. They just pay for consumption.

  • $22.33 garbage services
  • $10.90 recycling fee
  • $13.70 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.37m³)
  • $20.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.05m³)

Total: $67.43/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer use.

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Okotoks pop (28,881) 2016

Don’t let the tally on this bill fool you, Okotoks has the lowest cost for water of all the municipalities I surveyed. Also, Okotoks bills bi-monthly so remember to divide by two when you’re checking my math.

  • $22.08 waste services fee
  • $8.75 flat fee for water
  • $8.43 flat fee for sewer
  • $15.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.55m³)
  • $22.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $6.50 storm sewer fee

Total: $64.75/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, all in.

Okotoksbill

Penhold pop 3,277 (2016)

I don’t have a bill from Penhold but I confirmed the utility charges posted on their website are accurate. The combined water and sewer cost calculator on the same webpage is not. Penhold has no charge for recycling.

  • $23.00 monthly garbage pickup
  • $13.00 fixed charge per water meter
  • $11.00 fixed charge for sewer
  • $13.90 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.39m³)
  • $34.70 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $3.47m³)

Total: $95.60/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, and of course garbage.

Sundre pop 2,729 (2016)

I do not have a utility bill from the Town of Sundre but I did call them to make sure the information on their website is the same as what is charged. It is.

  • $25.65 garbage fee
  • $21.50 water service fee
  • $5.25 storm service fee
  • $21.50 sewer fee
  • $22.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $13.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.35m³)

Total: $109.90/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer consumption

Turner Valley pop 2,559 (2016)

Turner Valley is a pain to calculate. They operate on a graduated scale so cost for using 10m³ is $2.15/m³. After the first 10m³ the rate changes to $2.20/m³ but the first 10m³ are still billed at $2.15/m³ and so on up the line until it tops out at $2.35/m³ for anything at 45m³ or beyond. I’m just doing a rate comparison for 10m³ so the rate will show as $2.15/m³. Turner Valley bills every two months as well so I’ve divided the flat rates by 2.

  • $14.00 garbage base residential
  • $6.00 recycle base residential
  • $16.50 sewer base residential
  • $16.50 water base residential
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³)
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³) billed at 100% of water consumption

Total: $96.00/month @10m³ of use for water and sewer

TVbill

So what did I learn? Well, there is a huge variance in how Alberta municipalities bill for utilities. Charges run from $65 to $140 monthly for what can be considered the same services. Why? I can’t say.

I can state as fact that Black Diamond is not the highest in the province and every municipality I looked at charges for both water and sewer consumption, most at 100% for both.

Repair Café

Big news from the Sustainable Black Diamond Advisory Committee (SBDAC):

On Saturday, March 16, 2019 from 1 to 4 a Repair Café is coming to our Town.

What is a Repair Café you ask? Check out this short video.

SBDAC is looking for both volunteer “fixers” with various skills like: soldering, electrical prowess, knitting, sewing, woodworking and more. If you have a skill you’d like to share and show off, contact me here and I’ll put you in touch with the organizers of the Repair Café.

Of course a Repair Café also needs things to fix, so bring your clean household items and personal effects down and let the team of “fixers” take a crack at a repair or two.

Hope to see lots and lots of you next month.

Repair Cafes