Municipal Utility Rates – Appeal
In this decision, the AUC considered an appeal from Ms. Heide Peterson and Mr. Yvon Fournier (collectively, the “Appellants”), requesting that the AUC disallow all water, sewer, garbage and land fill utility charges, including interest, from June 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, that the Village of Delia (“Delia”) had applied to Mr. Fournier’s utility account. The AUC found that certain of the water, sewer, garbage and land fill service charges at issue in this appeal, from June 1, 2018, to present, were discriminatory and therefore ordered that Delia not pursue these charges.
The Appellants own a commercial property (the “Property”) in Delia. From 1980 to May 2017, the Property was vacant and not receiving utility service. However, commencing in June 2017, the Property was leased to a commercial business for a one-year term (the “Lease”). The Appellants requested that Delia provide utility service to the Property and provided a copy of an application for utility services for the Property, dated July 31, 2017.
When the Lease ended, and the Property was once again vacant, Ms. Peterson informed Delia they no longer required utility services at the Property. Water service to the Property was disconnected at the end of May 2018. However, Ms. Peterson submitted that Delia informed the Appellants that, regardless of the disconnection of water service, they were still required to pay for utility services, pursuant to Section 9 of Bylaw #623-2017. Bylaw #623-2017 required that from April 17, 2017, onward, an owner is responsible for all service charges, fees and other charges whether water service is connected or has been disconnected.
The AUC’s jurisdiction to deal with this matter is set out in Section 43 of the Municipal Government Act, which states:
43(1) A person who uses, receives or pays for a municipal utility service may appeal a service charge, rate or toll made in respect of it to the Alberta Utilities Commission, but may not challenge the public utility rate structure itself.
(2) If the Alberta Utilities Commission is satisfied that the person’s service charge, rate or toll
(a) does not conform to the public utility rate structure established by the municipality,
(b) has been improperly imposed, or
(c) is discriminatory,
the Commission may order the charge, rate or toll to be wholly or partly varied, adjusted or disallowed.
The AUC noted that Delia customers that connected and then disconnected their water service prior to April 27, 2017, are not required to pay monthly non-metered charges, while customers that disconnected or both connected and disconnected their water service on or after April 27, 2017, are required to pay monthly non-metered charges.
The AUC indicated it did not consider that Delia had established a reasonable basis for the distinction in billing customers monthly non-metered charges based on whether they disconnected from water service prior to April 27, 2017, or on or after April 27, 2017. Accordingly, the AUC found that Delia’s rates were discriminatory.
The AUC ordered Delia to repay Mr. Fournier, the utility account holder, any amounts paid from June 1, 2018, to the date of the issuance of this decision, for any non-metered monthly charges for each of water, sewer, garbage and land fill service, in addition to any interest or penalties that Delia may have charged on these amounts. In cases where Mr. Fournier had not paid these charges, the AUC directed that Delia shall not pursue the recovery of these charges.