Council Meeting – November 6

It’s a big one this week. We have two delegation presentations; one from TCEnergy (formerly Trans Canada) on a natural gas pipeline in our area and the second presentation from MDB Insight on their report on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Strategy.

I sit on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee and we were pleased with the report and its contents. The presentation is expected to take longer than the standard 15 minutes so bring a pillow as the chairs in Council Chambers aren’t that comfortable for extended sitting.

Council is also being asked to decide on next year’s Fortis franchise fees; a budget reallocation of $3,000 and $6,000 for conceptual design of a park and ride, washroom and bus shelter; and to determine a voting representative for the Sheep River Regional Utility Corporation (SRRUC) AGM which will be held Thursday, November 28 at 5 p.m. in the Sheep River Library

We are also being asked to decide on a utility account refund in the amount of $393.39.

The correspondence, reports and information list looks quite long and daunting but it’s mostly all CAO reports. Council receives them quarterly and they outline what the CAO has been up to.

There is a letter introducing a new higher up in the RCMP: Trevor Daroux, Chief Superintendent, District Officer for Southern Alberta. Also from the RCMP, a letter thanking the council members who met with them at the AUMA last September.

On October 2, 2019, Black Diamond Council filled out a self-evaluation. You can take a look and see if you agree with the responses.

Lastly, an invitation to join the campaign to stop ageism let by the Alberta Council on Aging.

Below is the pdf version of the agenda. Hope to see some of you there on Wednesday.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 06 Nov 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

October 22 – Regular meeting of Council

The next meeting of Black Diamond Council is Tuesday, October 22nd at 9 a.m.

On the agenda is a delegation presentation from Black Diamond resident Ted Davis, regarding pavement concerns in the Riverwood subdivision.

Also to be discussed is regional solid waste management which was on the agenda for the last meeting but Council asked for more time to review the report.

Finally, Council is being asked to accept the resignation of one of the Library Board members. This is merely protocol. Council has a policy for committee and board members and it must be adhered to.

So likely a short meeting this coming Tuesday.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 22 Oct 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

Communication error

divisionbell

I received some good feedback last week from a resident. It is clear I’m not doing as good a job communicating as I hoped. The criticism was Black Diamond councillors do not engage with residents online as much or as well as Turner Valley’s councillors. I’ll try to remedy that by posting on Facebook more often.

I’ve also heard that many would like to follow Town business and have an interest in what Black Diamond Council is discussing but either forget or can’t find the agendas. I’m happy to post the agendas here on my blog and hopefully that makes it easier for people to find them.

It would be so nice to see more people at council meetings. Rarely does anyone show up and when they do it’s because they are unhappy with something Council has done or is doing. From a councillor’s perspective, this is difficult. I see a lot of opinions on Facebook but I don’t often get an opportunity to talk face to face with constituents. I’d like more discussion. I’d like to present your opinions to the rest of council. I’d be thrilled to talk to you.

Here is a copy of the next Black Diamond Council meeting agenda. This meeting will be Wednesday, October 16 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers (downstairs at the Town of Black Diamond Municipal Office). Hope to see you there and as always, if you want to reach me you can email, call or text. My information is on my contact page.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 16 Oct 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

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

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.