By Matthew Liebenberg
Swift Current residents are facing an increase in electricity as well as water and wastewater rates in September.
Council members approved motions during a regular council meeting on Aug. 22 to advise the public of their intention to adjust the electricity rates and the combined water and wastewater rates.
The electricity rate adjustments are a result of an increase in SaskPower rates. The Government of Saskatchewan accepted the recommendations of the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel to increase SaskPower’s rates.
SaskPower’s rates will increase by four per cent effective Sept. 1 and another four per cent rate increase will take place on April 1, 2023.
“We follow SaskPower’s rates,” City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken said. “SaskPower did the rate application, they did all the work on that and they’re applying the rate structure as they intend to, and we just follow along and pass that through to our customers. We don’t have any influence on the way those rates are set.”
The notice of motion at the Aug. 22 council meeting was only for the initial four per cent rate increase effective Sept. 1.
For City Light and Power residential customers the financial impact of this rate change will be an estimated average monthly increase of $5.35 for an apartment, $6.93 for an average home, and $8.37 for a large home.
Both small and medium commercial customers and large commercial customers will see an average increase of four per cent on their total annual billing.
SaskPower is also implementing a rate rebalancing plan and it is transitioning to a different rate design methodology.
“The rate rebalancing is to shift more of the cost into the service charge or the fixed cost and less into the variable cost or the kilowatt hours used,” Minken explained. “That’s their philosophy, which actually lines up better with most of the Canadian utilities. They’ve been using a system where more was in the variable rate than in the fixed rate. So this is getting them closer to what most Canadian utilities do.”
SaskPower will be implementing these changes in a phased approach during several rate applications to reduce the impact of the change on electricity users. The rebalancing will mean that lower energy usage customers will experience a larger percentage increase than higher energy usage customers.
“So their dollar amount may not be more, but you’ll feel it more as a percentage at the bottom end, because most of the rate increase is being applied in the monthly service charge fee,” he said. “And then the variable rate that you pay for the power that you use is less than that four per cent increase.”
The other rate increase will be for the City’s combined water and wastewater utility. There is an annual two per cent water and wastewater rate increase on Jan. 1, but this increase will be insufficient for 2022. As a result, there will be an additional one per cent rate increase effective Sept. 1.
City residents have been paying the annual two per cent rate increase for several years as a result of a council decision in November 2017.
This perpetual water and wastewater rate increase of two per cent will continue to happen every January until council decides to amend this current arrangement.
According to Minken the additional one per cent rate increase in 2022 became necessary to offset budgetary expenses and capital investments made during this fiscal year in the water and wastewater utility.
“During the preparation of the 2022 municipal budget it was determined that the current combined water and wastewater rates for 2022 would not be adequate to generate the amount of revenue required to support infrastructure improvements and operating cost increases in 2022 and into the future,” he said.
This one per cent rate increase will generate an estimated additional amount of $90,000 for the water and wastewater utility, which should be sufficient to cover the amount borrowed for capital projects.
“It’s numerous capital projects,” he said. “So it’s the whole budget package for 2022. The debt was just recently taken. The rate increase was not required until now. We managed to defer that rate increase until we had to start servicing that debt.”
Council awards contract for East landfill operation:
Council members awarded a new three-year contract for the operation of the East landfill during the regular council meeting, Aug. 22.
The City received two tender submissions and the proposal by GFL Environmental Inc. received the highest score. The company currently operates 21 landfills, four organic pads and 22 transfer stations in western Canada. It has already been operating the East landfill on an interim basis since May 17.
The service contract was awarded to GFL Environmental Inc. for a three-year period with two options to extend for an additional two years.
The total annual cost of this contract will be $353,400 (PST exempt, GST excluded). In addition, there will be a fee of $11 per tonne for waste cover and compaction services and a payment of $1,200 per significant snowfall event for snow removal done at the landfill by the company. The total annual payment to the company will therefore be close to $600,000.
The City will pay about $160,000 more for this new contract compared to the previous landfill contract, but it is expecting that waste compaction done by the company will result in annual landfill airspace savings of about $612,000. This will help to extend the lifespan of the landfill until its projected closure in about eight years.
“It’s dependent on how much volume of waste that we bring in, but right now it’s projected that the closure of the East landfill will be in 2030,” Minken said.
GFL Environmental Inc. will be using an alternative system to cover any open waste at the end of daily operations, which is a legal requirement. The standard procedure has been to use dirt as a cover, but the company will use steel covers as an overnight waste cover. This method is expected to save about $200,000 annually in soil use.
“These steel covers allow the contractor to just cover the waste for the night and then be able to uncover it again in the morning and continue on, making the most efficient use of our soil cover,” he explained.
Council awards washroom tender for inclusive playground:
The development of an inclusive playground in a new south side park on the site of the former Palliser Care Centre in Swift Current will include an accessible washroom.
Council awarded the tender for the construction of this washroom during the Aug. 22 regular council meeting.
The City received three tender submissions, of which two were from local contractors. City General Manager of Community Services Jim Jones said the bids by the local contractors were considered equal and it was therefore recommended to award the contract to the lowest bid.
Council supported this recommendation and awarded the contract of $126,911.68 (PST included, GST excluded) to Bridal Builders.
Swift Current Mayor Al Bridal, who is associated with this company, declared a conflict of interest before council considered this report and left council chambers for the duration of the discussion. He was joined by Councillor Tom Christiansen, who declared a conflict of interest as a potential subcontractor associated with Bridal Builders.
The accessible washroom will include features such as standing sinks, handrails, motion sensor activated lighting, vandal resistant mirrors, motion activated faucets and flooring suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.