Around 35 Pemberton North residents concerned by water charge increases of 111 per cent in 2013 attended an information meeting about the long-running bulk-water-supply dispute between the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and the Village of Pemberton (VOP).
SLRD Area C director Susie Gimse and SLRD chief administrative office Lynda Flynn chaired the meeting, which took place at the Pemberton Community Centre on May 13.
"It was a pretty good turnout, considering there are only around 112 parcels who are users of the Pemberton North water service," Gimse said.
"We held the meeting because we were getting a lot of questions and calls, and we wanted an opportunity to present the facts from the regional district perspective... to explain the history of the negotiations and some of the challenges that we've had along the way."
Gimse said both sides of the situation "could have done things better. I think it's important that we try to move things forward now."
The SLRD provided a nine-page background document to provide "comprehensive information on a 'without prejudice' basis," noting that negotiations with the VOP were ongoing but promising to keep Pemberton North Water System users apprised of ongoing developments.
One of the outcomes, Gimse said, was the likely formation of a ratepayers association to represent Pemberton North water users at council meetings, and she said some interest had been expressed in going to the Auditor-General for Local Government.
Resident Scott Gillis, who recently filed a complaint with the BC Ombudsperson over the rate increases, said he was glad he went.
"It was very interesting to say the least. When I talked with the ombudsperson I guess they got in touch with the SLRD and said that when they had this meeting they wanted copies of everything, minutes, notes, who asked questions what answers were given, all this kind of stuff," Gillis said.
The people who turned up "had lots questions and queries about costs... there's an awful lot going on there," he added. "I think everyone is just looking for a resolution for this whole thing."
Engineers KWL completed an assessment commissioned by the VOP in January and submitted a water rates review to the village's Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on May 21. The report looked at the impact on VOP policy, budget and staffing and will be presented at Pemberton's June 4 council meeting.
Gimse said she attended the COW meeting and would debrief SLRD staff.
At the council meeting earlier in the day, Pemberton Council rescinded and once again passed the third reading of the Village of Pemberton Termination of Water Services Bylaw No. 717, 2012 to allow for a "technical update" of 1989 bylaw information, which had been left out of previous incarnations of the termination bylaw proposal. The proposal requires a fourth reading to pass, but this is currently on hold pending negotiations.
In April, the VOP launched a lawsuit against the SLRD for $456,010 in outstanding bulk water charges from 2007 onwards, but it has not yet served notice on the SLRD.
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