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Home News Council approves 0 per cent water bill increase, reverses decision to cut Septic Rebate Program

Council approves 0 per cent water bill increase, reverses decision to cut Septic Rebate Program

Council approves 0 per cent water bill increase, reverses decision to cut Septic Rebate Program
Prince Albert City Hall. Herald File Photo

Prince Albert city council approved a 0 per cent water bill increase on Thursday, and rescinded an earlier motion to end the Septic Rebate Program.

The program affects 185 properties, almost all of which are north of the river. It will still undergo a review, but won’t end on July 1 as originally planned.

Some people don’t pay into that fund, so we’re going to review it,” Mayor Greg Dionne said after Thursday’s meeting. “It will change in some fashion, but we don’t’ know how.”

Several councillors said they received new information from concerned residents, which made them rethink their opposition to the program.

Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards said he based his original decision on the assumption that cancelling the rebate would cost each property around $500 per year. On Thursday, however, Edwards said he learned some property owners would lose as much as $160 per month.

“Some residents, unfortunately, are going to eat this (cost) pretty heavily,” Edwards said during the opening minutes of Thursday’s meeting. “That’s a concern of mine, especially this year.”

Edwards said the formula definitely needs to be reviewed, but he supported keeping the rebate around for another year.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who spearheaded the move to end the rebate program on Wednesday, also expressed interest in reversing the decision. Like Edwards, Zurakowski said the program should be reviewed, but he agreed that council may not have enough information to cut the program this year.

“If there is another conversation, another perspective, I think that’s important (to hear),” he said during the meeting. “On the issue of tax fairness, I think we may end up in the same place anyway, but I’m prepared to make the following motion: that we rescind the motion we made (on Wednesday).”

The motion to rescind also directed city administration to review the rebate program and report back by June at the latest. Public Works Director Wes Hicks told council they should have the report ready sometime in March.

Only one city councillor voted against rescinding the motion. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said council made the right decision on Wednesday based on the information they were given. He also argued residents had enough notice to prepare for the financial loss.

The program was set to end on July 1, meaning residents would have had six months to prepare for the change.

“If we get a report back, then we can rescind that motion or change that motion (with) the correct information, but all we have right now is hearsay,” Orgodnick said. “We have a councillor here who got some information from a resident, and a councillor across (the chamber) who got some from information from residents. I don’t know whether that’s correct or not. We need to get the information from the department on what the facts are, (and) on what they pay or don’t pay.”

The Septic Rebate Program was passed in 1980, and extended to all residents and businesses in 1993. Public Works Director Wes Hicks told council on Wednesday it should have ended in 1995 when the City created the Utilities Fund, which removed water and sewer charges from property owners’ taxes.

Cancelling the program on July 1 would have saved the City around $45,000.