Pemberton North Water Service dispute settled 

Village, SLRD reach agreement on past and future rates

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and the Village of Pemberton have reached an agreement over the Pemberton North Water Service (PNWS), ending a dispute that has dragged on for several years.

As a result, the village has dropped its lawsuit against the SLRD for outstanding water bills, while the two government agencies have reached a settlement over disputed rates between 2007 and 2013, and agreed on a rate structure for the PNWS through 2019.

"This is good news for Pemberton North Water users," said Area C director Susie Gimse, who represents most PNWS users, in a release. "Pemberton North Water users will also be happy to know that they won't see an increase in their water rates to fund the payment of the settlement."

As per the settlement, the SLRD will pay $316,559 to the village for the seven years of disputed rates, including interest of $77,037, which is significantly less than the $978,000 the village saw as outstanding fees, interest and penalties for the service.

The village sells water to the SLRD in bulk to supply more than 150 connections to the PNWS, mostly located in Area C. The dispute arose when the village doubled what it billed the SLRD - from $0.52 to $1.04 per cubic metre - in 2007. In the absence of a formal agreement, the SLRD continued to pay the old rate, leading to what the village considered an outstanding balance.

"The agreement reached ensures a fair and equitable cost distribution regarding past and future rates for Pemberton North Water users," said SLRD board chair Patricia Heintzman in the release. "Negotiations of this nature and complex and incredibly time consuming. I'd like to thank both parties for their commitment to getting this deal done."

Earlier this summer, Pemberton council rescinded a Water Termination Bylaw that was moving towards adoption in anticipation of a settlement. Thursday's press release states that the settlement funds will be put towards well rejuvenation "and/or the Pemberton Meadows Pressure Reducing Valve (looping) capital project."

"We are pleased to have this agreement in place," said acting Pemberton mayor James Linklater in the release. "Now we can move forward with certainty and focus our efforts on the capital projects we've got planned to ensure the long-term sustainability of water services in Pemberton."

The service agreement also means that Pemberton will begin charging the SLRD rates recommended for the PNWS in a water service rate review compiled by Kerr Wood Leidal earlier this year - starting at $0.81 per cubic metre for 2014 and rising seven cents per year to $1.16 by 2019.

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