In spite of a request to consider the opposite, the City of Meadow Lake’s sewer rates will not be changing with the seasons.

Recently, city council received a letter from resident Ellen Boon concerning seasonal water usage.

“We recently received our quarterly water bill with a newsletter that announced changes to fixed rate costs and usage,” Boon noted. “My query has to do with both for seasonal usage. When residing in other communities, we paid less for sewage costs in the late spring and summer months as city councils acknowledged water usage was also for watering vegetable gardens, yards, trees, etc. This water did not go back through the sewage systems, and charges reflected that.”

Boon went on to ask council to consider this during the hot summer months when there is less rain.

“Though we use five rain barrels, it does not suffice without rainfall,” Boon added. “I am sure there are many gardeners who would appreciate this new method of charges.”

According to the city’s water and sewer bylaw, sewer rates are charged at roughly 40 per cent of the water consumption rate.

“This rate structure already seems to recognize the fact some of the water used by residents is for consumption as well as for watering lawns and gardens,” stated city clerk Ferne Hebig in her official recommendation to council. “The city offers this discount year-round to all residents rather than simply over a few months of the year. Administratively, switching to a lower sewer rate only in certain months means staff would have to reprogram water and sewer rates in our system twice a year.”

Council ultimately voted in favour of directing administration to respond to Boon with the existing sewer rate structure and rationale for the same, and to decline to consider further lowering rates in the summer. The motion was made by councillor Tom Harrison and seconded by councillor Conrad Read.

Meanwhile, Boon also asked council to look into the possibility of providing a place for residents to dispose of food waste similar to the existing compost site for grass clippings and other yard waste.

“We are constantly working on reducing our waste,” she remarked in her letter. “We usually put our garbage or recycling waste out once a month. In the summer, garbage goes out every time because of the heat and high temperatures. This is unnecessary garbage as it is mainly food waste, peels and ends of various produce. We make really good use of the city yard waste (site) and wonder if there is any way a bin or something could be provided for (food waste). This would be a win for everyone and would create compost that could be sold.”

According to Hebig, the city does not have a program for food waste other than disposing of it in the garbage.

“There is also the compost bin rebate program,” she said. “Our rebate program offers a $25 per household (one-time) rebate on a compost bin that is purchased by a city resident from a local business. It does not include construction materials to build a bin, kitchen compost pails or the service fees for curbside collection services. People are certainly encouraged to purchase a compost bin and compost their food waste, but the onus and cost would be on them.”

She went on to note many communities (especially larger centres) are moving toward different kinds of food waste composting programs.

“Even some smaller communities maintain a compost pile that allows food waste in their compost area,” Hebig added. “Therefore it is possible, with examples of successful programs run elsewhere, for the city to work toward such a program. However, many hours of staff time in the research and reporting, creation, implementing and maintaining such a program, would be required.”

Read asked if food waste could be placed in the green waste bins provided by Protex Environmental.

“You cannot take food waste to our compost site,” replied city manager Diana Burton. “We do not allow that.”

Burton went on to confirm the green bins Read referred to are to be used for grass clippings and yard waste only.

“Part of the issue is they don’t have a place to take the food waste,” she said.

In the end, council voted to direct administration to respond to Boon with information regarding the compost bin rebate and to decline to consider a food waste program at this time. The motion was made by Read and seconded by councillor Marty Bishop.

by Phil Ambroziak