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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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

Document

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.

U_Bills_Form1

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

Proposed sewer rate increase

tmnt

Before Black Diamond Town Council are some amendments to Bylaw 18-01, the Water and Sewer Bylaw.

The most significant change is to Schedule A sewer rates, and they are going up or down depending on your situation. Should Council pass this amendment, the rates would be in effect starting January 1, 2019.

Let me explain using my own utility bill.

waterbill

Currently, everyone with a water meter pays an $86 flat fee for sewer charge. The change would be a new flat fee of $43 per billing cycle (every 2 months) for buildings with a 15mm (5/8″) and 20mm (3/4″) meter. It’s mainly residential buildings that have those meter sizes. Those customers would also begin paying $2.35 per m³ (cubic meter) for sewer use based on water consumption. So charged for 100% in and 100% out.

Residential Customers

My family uses about 20 m³ of water per billing cycle. Last bill I paid was $207.91, all in.

I did the math and if you use 18.29m³ you will pay the same as before. If you use less, under the proposed amendment you will save money. My sister, who uses between 5m³ to 7m³ per billing cycle stands to save under this proposed rate plan.

In my opinion, the silver lining in the rate increase is this could encourage residents to use less water and in turn less sewer. If the thought of paying twice to water your lawn doesn’t sit right with you, there are easy rainwater catchment systems you can install. Then you wouldn’t be paying for water or sewer for your garden at all.

Commercial Users

Commercial users will be paying more. Those with 15mm (5/8″), 20mm (3/4″) and 25mm (1″) meters would pay $43 flat fee. For buildings with a meter size of 40mm (1.5″) and 50mm (2″), these being the more common commercial meters so I’m told, the rate is going from $86 to $215 per billing cycle. Up $129 every two months. There is also a section in the bylaw that allowed for 36.37 m³ of sewer use before customers are charged $2.35/m³. This allowance is removed under the amended bylaw. Users would pay 100% of use in and out. There are larger rate increases for commercial buildings with meters of 75mm (3″) to 150mm (6″) but I’m told there are very few 3″ and 4″ meters and no 5″ or 6″ meters in use.

Multi-Family

Multi-family is where it was explained to Council that the current bylaw is most unequal in terms of billing for use. Right now, residential buildings all pay $86 for a sewer hook-up regardless of how many units are within the building. So a single family dwelling pays the same as a 20 unit condominium. Under the bylaw amendment, this would change based on meter size; 15mm (5/8″) and 20mm (3/4″) meters would pay $43, 25mm (1″) would pay a $107.50 flat fee, 40mm (1.5″) would be charged $215 and 50mm (2″) would owe $344 per billing cycle. This is going off the assumption that the larger the meter, the more units are being fed water and the more capacity for water and sewer use. As with commercial and residential, the charge for m³ of sewer use will be $2.35m³ based on water consumption with no allowance of 36.37m³.

Why the change you ask?

  1. Residential users, specifically residential customers who use less than the average of 22 m³ per billing cycle, are subsidizing the higher users. This new rate plan will alleviate that.
  2. Both the water and sewer rates had not seen a change since 2015. Council was advised, based on inflation and increasing costs of operations in general, this is unsustainable. They just have to go up.
  3. So the theory goes, buildings with a larger water meter could conceivably use more water. There is a clause in Schedule B in the bylaw that allows for a change out of meters and downsizing. The fee is $600. Commercial users would recoup that cost in 4.6 months.

The only other thing that is changing is Section 2 of Schedule B. This stipulates bills are due on the 15th of the month and late payment is now subject to 5% of the amount outstanding.

The bylaw is still in draft stages and I urge residents and utility users to read it and comment under the Town of Black Diamond’s public consultation policy.

We want you…

photo of man pointing his finger

To give us your opinions.

On the Town of Black Diamond’s website, you will find a page for public participation. All current surveys, open houses and draft bylaws (those that do not get passed all in one meeting) are listed there.

If you have any thoughts, questions or you want your opinion heard, please email, call or snail mail the Town of Black Diamond before the next meeting of Council.

You can also reach me by email at v.kloiber@town.blackdiamond.ab.ca or by phone/text at 403-921-2811.