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Pemberton tables bylaw to allow end of water supply arrangement with SLRD

Unpaid fees cited; agreement could end Dec. 31, 2013



Pemberton Council has tabled a bylaw which would allow them to terminate its longstanding arrangement to supply water to Pemberton North, which is in Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).

The Termination of Water Services Bylaw No. 717, 2012 A, subtitled "A Bylaw to discontinue the provision of bulk water service to Pemberton North Water System (PNWS) failing execution of a bulk water service agreement between the Village of Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District" unanimously passed its first, second and third reading at the regular council meeting of Dec. 4.

Village of Pemberton (VOP) documents cited the $448,938.19 in outstanding and unpaid fees owed to the VOP by the SLRD as of Sept. 30, 2012 "are increasing over time and represent a significant and increasing operational and fiscal risk."

The bylaw reading gives formal notice to the SLRD that via the Community Charter the VOP will be able to legally discontinue the provision of bulk water service to PNWS, because of unpaid fees, on Dec. 31, 2013, if the VOP and the SLRD are unable to successfully negotiate a bulk water service agreement by Nov. 30, 2013.

The VOP has supplied water to Pemberton North since 1990.

Chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland said when presenting the bylaw that it was drawn up by the VOP's solicitor.

SLRD Area C director Susie Gimse said this would impact 105 parcels using 150 connections in the PNWS and estimated this would see as many as 375 people needing alternative water sources should the Village cut off supply, as she estimated 2.5 people used each connection.

Gimse requested to be allowed to address the issue with council as she had only learned of the bylaw the day before the meeting and was too late to be added to the presentation section of the council meeting agenda through normal procedures. This was supported by council.

In her presentation, Gimse said the current impasse in fee payment began in 2007, when the VOP doubled Pemberton North's water rates from 52 cents to $1.04 per cubic metre. She said Pemberton North residents currently pay around $1,000 per year, with the expectation of upcoming significant increases.

"With respect to the issue at hand, we've had some challenges, challenges with both organizations. Changes in staff, competing priorities for projects... we would have liked to have seen this resolved seven years ago but stuff happens," Gimse said. "We started off this year with respect to working towards resolving outstanding issues... one is regard to water.... Work has been initiated and is moving forward on water."

Gimse said the SLRD's challenge has been to understand what makes up the rate, and there have been challenges in accessing information on this.

"It's really hard for us to move forward effectively without that information," Gimse said. "I think it's important to understand what the costs are currently.

"It doesn't work in anyone's best interest to have it go forward in this manner."

There were no questions from council following Gimse's presentation.

When Pique later asked during the media question period if the bylaw, due for its fourth and final reading at the Dec. 18 council meeting, was a fait accompli with negotiations being too far behind to stop the bylaw process prior to the next SLRD meeting of Dec. 17, Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said staff from both the Village and the SLRD would continue negotiating.

Gimse said she was "happy to hear that."