Grand Forks looking at electrical rate hike

Electrical utility rates in Grand Forks will likely be increasing in the very near future. At a meeting on Monday, city council gave first, second and third reading to Bylaw 1916, an electrical utility regulatory amendment bylaw.

Electrical utility rates in Grand Forks will likely be increasing in the very near future.

At a meeting on Monday, city council gave first, second and third reading to Bylaw 1916, an electrical utility regulatory amendment bylaw.

According to the city, electrical rates would increase to “98 per cent of the FortisBC rates for residential and competitive commercial rates” and would be effective for the billing period between mid-February and mid-April (second billing period of 2011) and it would amount to a 9.9 per cent increase for variable rates for residential and commercial.

The bylaw would have to pass final reading at the next council meeting on April 11 and a similar bylaw (1915) was defeated at a meeting on March 14.

“The failure of that (previous) bylaw not only impacted the electrical utility, it also impacted the financial plan for general revenue,” explained Coun. Christine Thompson.

“The annual financial plan was previously adopted by council, which gave our employees the authority to proceed with projects that we had discussed as a council and with the public to go forward in 2011.”

She said that city staff was negatively affected by the defeat of Bylaw 1915 as it had to put plans on hold and the city’s financial plan would have to be reworked.

“As it stands now, there are projects that are going to be delayed or not done at all, if we don’t proceed with this bylaw.”

Based on information presented during the reading of Bylaw 1915 at the previous meeting, a six per cent rate increase was forecast for April but now the increase has been scheduled for May and is estimated to be in the neighbourhood of a five per cent increase, causing concern for some city councillors.

“The concern I had after listening to Coun. Moslin speak last council meeting was to do with the downloading of forecasted numbers on the citizens of Grand Forks,” Coun. Michael Wirischagin said.

“Quite honestly, those concerns were recognized in the fact that the numbers changed from last meeting to this meeting.”

While Wirischagin said he was in favour of Bylaw 1916, he said that he was concerned that the numbers had changed within two weeks of the defeat of Bylaw 1915 and the readings of Bylaw 1916.

The city said that this most recent bylaw is to lessen the cost for electricity during the peak months of December, January and February and attempt to hold rate increases to once a year.

In other council-related news, two presentations were made during the primary committee meeting on Monday.

Habitat for Humanity Boundary’s Executive Director Rick Friesen made a presentation requesting that fees associated with water, electrical and sewer connections be waived for the non-profit’s Built Green multiplex on 72nd Avenue.

Dan Norton made a presentation requesting that the city approve a casino licence for a property on 136 Sagamore Ave.

According to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), approval from municipal government is required before a request can be made to the BCLC.

One of Norton’s associates is Bob Smith, who has previously tried to have a casino established in Grand Forks.