Calgary committee not ready to open the taps for water pilot project

It’s not flushed down the drain just yet, but a proposal for a pilot project on a water customer assistance program for the City of Calgary failed to get a vote of approval from a city hall committee Wednesday.

The City of Calgary has placed a moratorium on cutting off the water for people who fail to pay their bill. Currently there are 2,300 residential water customers who are more than 90 days in arrears and would be at risk of a water disconnection.

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The Water Customer Assistance Program would provide water efficiency education as well as detecting and repairing leaks. It would also replace water fixtures in bathrooms.

The pilot project would be aimed at low-income Calgarians who qualify and would provide a partial break on water bills for six months. A city report to the Utilities and Corporate services committee suggests the monthly bill adjustment would range between $28 and $32 per month.

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Councillor Peter Demong lauds the goals of the program but said he’s concerned about the city going it alone without provincial help.

“I’m sorry, but if we don’t approach them first and say, ‘Can you us do this?,’ we’re doing yet again what we as a city council do on such a regular basis — basically take over something that is a provincial mandate and say, ‘Don’t worry. We don’t need your money. We’re all good. We’ll adjust our property taxes or raise our rates.”

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Councillor Druh Farrell disagreed that the assistance program would be a provincial responsibility.

“Water is a city service and we offer subsidies on city services all the time for people who can’t afford them,” Farrell said. “This one (water) is the most essential service that we could offer and I don’t know why this would be a provincial issue.”

Farrell questions how this two-year pilot project — costing $2.8 million — could be turned down while council looks at possibly approving spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Olympics.

The proposal lost on a tie vote at the committee and it now goes to the full council for a vote next month.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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