A proposed pilot project aimed at assisting low-income Calgarians with their water bills could be tweaked before it heads to city council for debate next month.

The $2.8 million-proposal had a mixed reception at council’s utilities committee Wednesday with some councillors suggesting the city should leave social assistance programs up to the province.

The proposed project would see eligible low-income Calgarians, who are more than 90 days behind on their water bills, invited to participate. The city estimates up to 2,500 water customers would qualify for the program.

Participants would be educated in water conservation and could receive upgrades to improve the efficiency of their toilets and faucets. Successful completion of the water efficiency part of the program would qualify the customer for a rebate on their utility bill.

The city estimates the average household would be able to save $28 to $32 a month through the program.

City assistance program will help low-income customers to conserve more water. Participating in the water efficiency program will allow eligible customers to access rebates on their bill. #yyccc pic.twitter.com/Qf5zw4p93I

— Meghan Potkins (@mpotkins) October 10, 2018

Administration had hoped to begin the pilot immediately, but Wednesday’s meeting saw city councillors flag a number of concerns with the proposal.

After learning that provincial assistance to cover utilities is typically doled out on a one-off basis in emergencies, some councillors complained the pilot project was an example of the city picking up the province’s slack.

“Instead of us saying, ‘well, the province’s assistance isn’t enough, so we’ll just step in and do the province’s job for them’ — why wouldn’t we talk to the province from the get-go and say, ‘we’re thinking of doing this project, how would you (like) helping us?’” said Coun. Peter Demong.

“We are doing yet again what we as a city council do on such a regular basis which is take over something that’s a provincial mandate.”

Not all councillors agreed that the program covered territory that’s better left to the province.

Coun. Druh Farrell argued that providing safe, clean drinking water is a municipal responsibility, adding that the city routinely offers subsidies for other city services, including recreation and transit.

“Part of the argument is that with this austerity budget that we’re looking at, we can’t afford this service — that I found disappointing,” Farrell said following Wednesday’s meeting. “Surely we can afford to help those in the greatest need.”

Ultimately the committee was split 3-3 on …read more

Source:: Calgaryherald.com


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Water billing assistance program for low-income Calgarians divides committee

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