Sylvan Lake woman frustrated with estimate vs actual water bill

Suella Brown recently discovered Town utility bills use estimated costs every other month

“I am drowning in my water bill,” says Sylvan Lake resident Suella Brown.

As a single parent, she says the fluctuating cost on her monthly bill has gotten out of hand, especially after finding out every other month’s bill is an estimate.

“Every other month it can be up or down from the actual… when it is up it goes up $30. Do you know what I could do with $30? I could buy groceries or put gas in my car,” she said.

Brown says the cost of living in Sylvan Lake has “gotten out of control” and believes the Town should be considering its residents before raising costs of taxes and utilities.

“They have no consideration for those of us who are starving. I just feel like they don’t care,” Brown said.

“They keep going when we are just trying to stay afloat.”

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According to Brown, the Town needs to stop spending money on frivolous items while residents continue to struggle with the economic downturn.

She says items like the fireworks on Family Day and flooding the outdoor rinks are luxuries everyone can do without.

She loves all the town has to offer, but believes it is too costly to residents during trying times.

“They just want to spend… They are taking the joy out of living here,” Brown said.

Brown has taken her concerns to the Town, but feels like they don’t try to help her.

Instead, she says the only answer she ever receives is, “This is just how we do things.”

“Every time I complain nothing happens.”

Joanne Gaudet, communications coordinator with the Town of Sylvan Lake, says estimate versus actual billing has been used since the utility billing switched over the monthly in 2018.

Not only has it been in place for over a year, but it a common practise in other municipalities as well.

“It’s actually standard to do actual versus estimate billing,” Gaudet said. “It is new for us… but it is pretty common in other municipalities and for other utilities like gas and energy.”

If the estimated month is different from the actual, the difference is made up on the next month’s bill, according to Gaudet.

Generally speaking, the estimates are close to what the actual really is, according to Gaudet.

The Town chose to do the estimate versus actual billing system as a cost saving measure. To have an actual cost on the bill each month would mean hiring another metre reader.

Gaudet says this practice saves the Town upwards of $100,000 a year.

If residents have concerns about their billing, Gaudet advises to contact the Town directly.

“We can’t help if we don’t know the problem. Call us, email or come into the office, don’t just use Facebook, and we will sit down with you and explain the bill and work with you,” Gaudet said.

She says all residents should be aware of their water usages and how that can affect the bill each month.

Having someone come to visit for a few days can add a surprising amount to ones water bill.

“We are trying to raise awareness about the billing, and helping residents to be cognizant of their water usage,” Gaudet said.

Town employees will be available at the Home and Lifestyle Show on May 11 to talk to residents about this subject.

More information about the billing process and water conservation tips can be found at www.sylvanlake.ca

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