City utility bills to rise in 2019

City residents will see a small increase in their utility bills in 2019, after city council approved a hike in sewer fees on Monday.

City utility rates for next year have already been approved, so the effect won't appear until the spring 2019 bill.

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City director of finance Kris Dalio said the increase amounts to $10.80 per year, for a single family home. City council also approved water and garbage utility rates, which will see no increases.

"You're utility bill is for water, sewer and garbage. If you were to put all three together, that's a total $10.80 increase," Dalio said. "If you do the math, that's a less than one per cent increase, if you have a medium garbage can."

The increase is necessary to keep up with maintenance and repairs of the city's sewage system, Dalio said.

The increase was based on recommendations of the city's finance and audit committee.

"When it comes to utilities, the key is to keep the fees as low as possible, but no lower," Coun. Garth Frizzell, who chairs the committee, said. "This is the problem communities are facing across the country. (The cost) to be able to keep up with infrastructure breakage is getting out of hand."

Coun. Jillian Merrick said one concern over increasing utility rates is that they are flat rates per household, which means people pay the same amount regardless of income.

"But overall, this is good news. We've kept our utility rates at or near zero for a couple years," she said.

Merrick asked city staff if the city had ever considered charging water and sewer utilities based on the frontage size of the property, rather than a flat rate.

City manager Kathleen Soltis said in 2013 the city consulted the public about creating a separate utility fee to fund storm water drains in the city. The fees would have been based on lot size and the amount of hard, non-water absorbent surfaces in the lot.

"It was not well understood (by the public)," Soltis said.

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