Swimming pools ‘slipped through the cracks’ 

Overlooked for 28 years, RMOW serves Mountainside Lodge with water bill for pool

The Mountainside Lodge and other properties are facing big bills for water the municipality has never charged them for.

General Manager Mark Tremblett was served with a utility bill from the Resort Municipality of Whistler on May 28 for $3,717.06 to pay for water used to date this year in the lodge's pool. The lodge will receive an additional bill in August that covers the previous two years.

The municipality, it turns out, has for 28 years neglected to charge the Mountainside Lodge for water use in its swimming pool.

"We don't dispute the fact that there's a bylaw out there somewhere that says if you have a swimming pool, you're supposed to be paying this," Tremblett said. "I think it's more the fact they've discovered this after 20 years or whatever."

Tremblett calculates based on the current invoice that the lodge will be on the hook for almost $12,000 in August.

"They're not going to bill us back for the 20 years but I don't think they should even do us for the two years," he said. "I think because they've discovered that they're trying to find revenue, they've been looking under rocks here and there to come up with money."

Tremblett said he contacted the municipality's finance department and discovered that 20 to 30 properties with pools are facing similar bills, but he couldn't specify which ones.

"I think it's all a way to increase revenues going to the municipality because of everything that's been going on with them," he said. "If you take us as an example saying 28 years or so, and if you go 20 or 30 properties they've done this to, that adds up to a lot of property they haven't been including for years."

Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental services said in an interview that the municipality has noticed in the past few years that there have been shortcomings in its water utility invoicing procedures.

The municipality conducted an audit in 2007 and found two areas had "slipped through the cracks" of its invoicing procedures - one was swimming pools and the other was Whistler Blackcomb. Those slips added up to about $50,000 in annual lost revenue for the municipality, a full one per cent of its total annual water user charges.

Barnett couldn't specify the pool properties that were being targeted but said Whistler Blackcomb didn't pay for water use in some of its food and beverage facilities as well as at Base Two. The company had been paying for water use in some of its facilties but others just slipped through, as Barnett tells it.

He said the oversight might have come as a result of building modifications at some of Whistler Blackcomb's facilities.

"It's not like we didn't charge," he said. "We didn't charge them maybe for some building modifications or that kind of thing. And I don't know when it started, when the construction took place that we started not to charge for it."

The properties now being asked to pay for a previous two years of water use are being charged "retroactively" because it's common practice for the finance department to backdate its bills for two years.

However Communications Officer Julia Waring contacted Pique on Tuesday evening and said properties would no longer be charged retroactively.

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