Council gives first reading to rate increase for franchise fees

Rimbey residents could pay a couple more dollars a month for franchise fees if council approves a proposed rate increase.

Rimbey residents could pay a couple more dollars a month for franchise fees if council approves a proposed rate increase.

At its regular meeting, Monday, council gave first reading to a bylaw allowing for a one per cent increase to the ATCO Gas and Pipelines Natural Gas Distribution Franchise Agreement.

ATCO Gas has been the town’s franchise company since 1960.

After discussing the issue, council did not support the six per cent increase recommended by administration which would have seen individual franchise fees increase from $119.68 to $144.37.

“That’s a huge increase,” said Mayor Rick Pankiw. “Times aren’t great right now and many people are on a fixed income.”

“To me, in a perfect world, we would get rid of the franchise fees,” said Coun. Paul Payson. “If we needed another $50,000 we would raise the mill rate.”

However, Payson agreed the franchise fee is necessary, but stressed he wanted council to be open and honest about it.

“We must not sneak it in through the back door.”

Coun. Mathew Jaycox said the increase is to ATCOs advantage.

“We have given them the right to be the town’s provider.”

Coun. Brian Godlongton said he was agreeable to a two per cent increase.

After the discussion, council voted unanimously in favor of passing first reading for the bylaw for a one per cent increase.

The second and third readings could be given at the next council meeting.

ATCO provides core services to the town including delivery of natural gas, installation of all natural gas and provisions of all necessary regulators and meters.

The gas company also collaborates with the town’s emergency response plan and provides 24 hours a day service for investigation and safe leak response.

ATCO Gas also provides an annual report measuring the number of sites billed, revenue, rate class, total gigajoules of consumption and franchise fee revenue.