Council split on decision over water rates 

Decision put off until March with some users continuing to pay less than full cost of water consumption

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - WATER WORRIES Pemberton council continues to struggle with water pricing and how much water users in the region should pay for Village of Pemberton water.
  • File photo
  • WATER WORRIES Pemberton council continues to struggle with water pricing and how much water users in the region should pay for Village of Pemberton water.

Pemberton council was at an impasse during its Feb. 18 meeting when trying to set new water rates for residential properties and those billed outside the boundary.

The village is looking to set more equitable rates while also putting money aside for a new reservoir. A third-party report compiled by Kerr Wood Leidal indicated that residential and outside-boundary customers were due for an increase, and presented a recommended set of fees for implementation.

"Unfortunately some of our users have not been paying for the full cost of water consumption," said Lonny Miller, the acting manager of public works and capital projects for the VOP. "This report is recommending changes to bring everyone up to their true costs of consumption, (which) is more appropriate."

The new rate schedule would see the two sectors identified notice an increase of more than 30 per cent — $80.74 for 2014, or $6.73 monthly. The rate would continue to rise by seven per cent annually until 2019.

Councillors Mike Richman and James Linklater voted against the recommendations, concerned that the changes to the rate structure were too sudden for users. With Jordan Sturdy no longer at the council table as mayor, Richman and Linklater's oppositions resulted in a 2-2 split vote, defeating a motion to adopt the recommendations.

An alternative was outlined in the report by KWL that presented a less aggressive rate increase, but would maintain a longer period of cost inequity different customer classes. Users connected via Pemberton North Water Service (PNWS) "would pay significantly more than (their) fair share, while retail customers outside the boundary would pay significantly less than their fair share," said the report.

About 150 properties are connected to the PNWS, most of which are outside the village boundary. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) runs the service area and purchases water from the village in bulk.

Complicating the decision-making process for council is that negotiations for a PNWS bulk rate are ongoing between the SLRD and the village.

"One of the key questions is, do we rip the band-aid off on Year 1 with our core (village) users as an immediate bigger hit, versus (the alternative), which is much more gradual but a bigger hit to other users, one of which is the PNWS, which we are currently negotiating with," said village CAO Daniel Sailland.

"Choosing will have an impact both on those negotiations and what we charge our core users."

Council is expected to revisit the recommendations on Tuesday, March 4.

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