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Water rates drop in McPherson

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 14, 2009

TETLIT'ZHEH/FORT MCPHERSON - Fort McPherson residents should be paying less for water this month after hamlet council decided to lower water rates by 30 cents per litre.

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Fort McPherson mayor Bill Prodromidis says residents will notice a 27 per cent decrease in the hamlet's water rate on their December bills. - Katie May/NNSL photo

At a meeting late last month, council voted to decrease the rate to 80 cents a litre from $1.10 per litre, effective Dec. 1.

McPherson residents, who rely on trucked water services, have been paying the higher rate for two years. That's when the hamlet raised the rate from 68 cents a litre on the recommendation of an auditor, who suggested the extra money go toward the hamlet's debt.

Mayor Bill Prodromidis said it makes sense to lower the rates because the debt is now paid and the hamlet is saving money by trucking the water itself.

"Everybody was stopping me on the road saying, 'are you planning to do anything with the water rates?' We said yes," he said. "Everybody's happy. Everybody's enthusiastic because we did work hard, all of us, not just me. The whole hamlet."

Prodromidis said the decreased water rate is not a ploy to pull in more votes as he hopes for re-election on Dec. 14.

"It's not like we raised it without cause and we lowered it because of the elections. I mean this is something we've kept going at for a year now," he said. "It's not like a one-day decision."

About eight months ago, the hamlet took over the contract to haul water in from the reserve at Deepwater Lake, 22 km north of McPherson, from local company L.J.'s Septic Services and Contracting Ltd., which had provided the service for the past five years.

"It's nothing personal," said Prodromidis, adding even the lowest bid from a local trucking company is still more expensive than if the hamlet does it on its own.

"If the contractors are willing to lower their prices so the hamlet can afford to pay them, we can go along with that," he said. "But the way it is right now, with the money we're getting from the government - MACA - and the high prices for these contracts, we can't afford (it)."

But at least one local business owner doubts the hamlet will be able to maintain the low rates while still providing effective water trucking service.

Rebecca Blake, co-owner of L.J.'s, is also running for mayor along with Philip M. Blake and Hazel Nerysoo. She said her company first won the water contract in 2004 against five other bidders - proof, she said, that local businesses are eager and able to do the job so the hamlet can concentrate on other things.

"It's something that you have to forecast for. You have to have equipment; you have to have manpower; you; have to have a shop; you have to have someone to do the paperwork; you have to have the insurance; you have to replace that equipment. There is just a lot to it. I think as a municipality, they're not a trucking company," she said.

"There are people out there that are capable of doing it and I think as a government they need to stimulate the local economy. Instead, I feel they're going backwards. And I don't believe that that has any effect on the water rates."

The hamlet first started hauling water from Deepwater Lake in 2003, using its two government-purchased trucks, before it put the job to tender later that year.

Former Fort McPherson SAO Troy Jenkins added the hamlet saved a "significant" amount of money when it signed the five-year contract with L.J.'s.

"I know that when we contracted the raw water hauling out to a private company, it certainly cut our costs dramatically," he said.

The hamlet did not provide the difference in cost between contracted and municipal -run water-trucking services before press time.

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