Letter: Reader questions Morinville’s high water and sewer rates

Editor:

Good Day, this letter is in regard to the Free Press article from 25 October 2011 with the headline “County water rates shown to be on the higher end in municipal comparison”.

I read, with extreme interest, the article in which there is a comparison of many local communities and how the editor of the paper states that Sturgeon County is at the higher end of the communities with regard to utility rates. The shock, to me as a citizen of Morinville, was the standing of the town of Morinville on this list! In the local area, Gibbons came in at $73.35, St Albert came in at $80, Sturgeon County came in at $85.93 and Morinville came in at $141.92! This was for an average customer’s water and wastewater usage of 22 cubic meters per month! I am hoping that this is a misprint? However, I know it is not because my water / wastewater consumption for the month of September was 12 cubic meters (when I include my garbage fee of $15 for one pick up a month), my bill was $94 and change!

I would like ALL members of town council to explain why these fees are so high? Obviously, there are reasons and I, as a taxpayer of Morinville, demand to know them. This is outrageous! Is this another way of generating revenue to pay for upgrades within town, or to subsidize more developers
to build more housing (even though the town does not have the infrastructure to support the residents they have now), or to pay off the new Community Center white elephant?

What reasons could there possibly be that would require the citizens of Morinville to pay almost twice the amount that our surrounding neighbours pay for the necessities of living in Morinville? Is the town in that bad of financial shape that it must raise fees (read “hidden taxes”) to stay afloat?

I am still at a loss to understand why I cannot communicate directly with any / all of the Councillors of Morinville directly! The Mayor is the only one who has an e-mail account. Why must I have my e-mails screened by an executive assistant? I am pretty sure that all the Councillors are computer literate, so what is the problem? Is “big brother” watching? I have raised this issue in the past and have been contacted by a couple of Councillors through their personal e-mails.

This is totally unacceptable! I see that almost every employee of the
town of Morinville has a Morinville e-mail address! Why not the Councillors?

Town Council – SOME ANSWERS PLEASE!

Bill Graham

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4 Comments

  1. Mr. Graham:

    We certainly do not speak for competing publications and their articles, nor do we speak for Morinville Town Council, but it has been our experience in our covering water rates – usually at budget time – that Morinville uses a full cost recovery system.

    Below is an excerpt from an article we ran Dec. 22, 2010

    “The Town introduced a full cost recovery system a few years ago, seeking to make sure Morinville properly covered its costs of operating the system and set monies aside for future needs. The increase in water and sewer rates is to maintain that cost recovery system.”

    The full article can be found by clicking here.

    I cannot speak to the situation in other municipalities in totality, but not all municipalities operate their water and sewer programs on a full cost recovery basis or do preventative maintenance to the system as Morinville does. An example of that is the relining of manholes throughout Town, a project that has been going on for a couple years now, and one that adds life to the infrastructure, reduces costs, and eliminates the need to dig up the road to get the job done.

    I’m sure someone more qualified than I will provide some full details, but the bottom line would be if you are losing money selling water and sewer services you cannot make it up in volume.

  2. I agree that Morinville’s water rates are far too high. My town utility bill is always over $100.00 for a family of two and water makes up the bulk of the bill. For comparison, we also have a home in the desert in southern California and our average water bill is $13.00 per month.

  3. Dear Bill:

    The editor is right when he says that the Town of Morinville does use a FULL cost recovery model when figuring out the true cost to provide water to the residents.

    These things are some of the items that go into those costs: staff hours, maintaining and eventual replacement of the pipes, the water, maintaining and replacement of the reservoirs (there are more than one), the vehicles that the staff use, time to process the bills, postage, meter readings and on and on.

    The municipalities that do not use full cost recovery for water or any other service are using general tax revenue to support the cost of providing that service. Therefore, the user is not paying the full cost, it is shared by all.

    I think you’re missing the boat on garbage pickup. It is EVERY Tuesday and from May till October we have biweekly yard waste pick up. Not bad for only 15 bucks ay!

    As for the town’s infrastructure, water and sewer have a 20,000 population capacity.

    The town does not subsidise developers. Just ask them! They pay full cost recovery too.

    Now, aren’t you glad you asked?

    WHITE ELEPHANT!! Are you kidding us? The community cultural center is great. Have you been inside or attended an event there? . . . . . OH! I guess not.

    With Councillor’s emails not being available . . . . . . . I think you’re on to something here. Wanting to hear from us is just something that is great to say in public, not something you would actually want to put into practice!

  4. Joe, thanks for the clarification! I don’t mind if the town uses full cost recovery for the water / wastewater charges, with extra revenue earned going towards upgrading these utilities and paying for maintenance etc, but why then, if these utilities are set up for a population of 20,000 do I gag every time I enter town from highway 642 east and go by the sewage plant there? If other communities are using their general tax base, how come my annual taxes have gone up over $ 1,000 in the last 10 years? I would expect them to if they were using them to subsidize other areas of town management! I think YOU missed the boat on the garbage pickup quote, I realize it is every Tuesday, I am saying that myself and many others in the community (read retirees) only put out their garbage once a month because we only generate a small amount! Why should we pay the same as some of the residents here that put out overflowing garbage bins every week. Not fair! As for the developers, I may be wrong but, are you telling me that the town of Morinville didn’t spend considerable money a few years back preparing the area south of UFA on 100 Street (where the new overpass is being prepared) to entice a pre fab housing company that decided at the last minute to go somewhere else? And finally, no, I have not been to the new community center as there has not been anything I wished to attend there YET. I look forward to the end year statement from the town telling us how, with all the staff that was hired to run this center, plus utilities and other overhead, that this center made enough money to support itself and will not be a burden on the taxpayers of Morinville now or in the future!
    Cheers
    Bill Graham

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