Recreational facilities in Manitoba will be hit hard after a recent increase in average electricity rates.
Manitoba Hydro increased average electricity rates by 3.6 per cent as of June 1. Although it’s nowhere near the 7.9 per cent increase the Crown corporation had originally asked for when it applied to the Public Utilities Board last year, municipalities nonetheless are claiming the rate hike will be too much for them to continue operating recreation facilities as they are.
For example, according to Keystone Centre controller Chris Cels, hydro costs already total $400,000 per year for the facility.
"A 3.6 per cent increase would work itself out to about $15,000 (more) a year," Cels told The Sun.
In light of this, the facility administration is attempting to make the Keystone Centre more energy efficient, in order to keep energy costs down.
"We’re doing a major overhaul to the main arena lights this summer, and switching the bulk of them over to LEDs," Cels said.
While the Keystone Centre may be able to adjust its electricity use, the recent rate increase may be more than some smaller facilities can handle.
"A number of them, especially in rural areas, are struggling already, and if those costs increase for hydro or gas rates that really affects them dramatically," said Chris Goertzen, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. "It may well be the end of a number of them because they just can’t afford to continue."
Hydro’s rate increase is the topic of a resolution before the AMM that will be voted on at the organization’s Western District meeting on Thursday. The resolution, which was sponsored by the Riverdale Municipality, resolves for the AMM to lobby the province of Manitoba and/or the PUB "to provide a reduced rate for gas and (electricity) from Manitoba Hydro to all recreational facilities."
Riverdale Mayor Todd Gill said currently, their community centre’s hydro and electric and gas charges total about $80,000 per year.
"When you do the math over the next few years (with the) increases being proposed, at some point you wonder whether it’s still feasible to try and keep the doors open," Gill said.
The increase in rates will be passed on through user fees or by way of taxation, he said.
The goal of the resolution is that hydro could be provided to these recreational facilities at a lower base rate, preventing higher user fees and keeping the doors open to the recreational facilities.
"We already have been advocating strongly for Manitoba Hydro to move forward with rate increases very cautiously, and also help municipalities with their recreation facilities, because they’re huge bills for municipalities that have limited resources," Goertzen said.
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