Even when something makes perfect sense to any level of government, an important part of the equation has to be explaining it to the public.
That’s why it may have been a bit of a surprise when Prince Albert residents woke up on Jan. 1 to a 9.2 per cent increase in their utility bills. Many wouldn’t have known until the issue was raised again on April 28.
It’s not the kind of surprise that many people appreciate.
The cost of a great many things is going up so the hike itself isn’t much of a shock. (Although the size of the hike might have taken some people aback.)
It might have been a good thing to discuss in council’s open meeting just to let people know that it was on the way.
The Daily Herald’s Tyler Clarke reported in Wednesday’s paper that the issue was only raised once, at the Dec. 9 city council meeting when Coun. Charlene Miller asked Mayor Greg Dionne whether he was interested in reconsidering the increase.
The mayor said at the time that he was open to looking at anything, “as long as it’s fair and equal to the majority of our population.”
That left things like they were going to be discussed again but that was it. The utility increase disappeared from public sight until Monday’s meeting.
That night, the city’s elected officials approved the 2014 water utility operating and capital budget.
Even then, the debate at council was limited to a single criticism by Coun. Lee Atkinson.
Again, it behooves our elected officials to explain a document that includes operating revenues of $14.38 million and a capital expenditure of $3.15 million.
Since this multi-year utility bill increase will carry the city to 2016, council had to do a better job of getting their message out that residents faced further increases of 8.9 per cent in both 2015 and 2016.
It might be a sound idea for the city to consider issuing a bulletin in the last week of the year outlining all of its fees and services and how they are expected to change in the new year.
Nobody is ever happy with an increase, but as the old saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.
Prince Albert Daily Herald