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Water rates bubble to the surface at council

Resident questions complicated rates and varied charges for Pemberton village and SLRD Area C



Pemberton resident Geoff McLeod made a presentation to council outlining his concerns about what he saw as water rate inconsistencies within the boundaries of the Village of Pemberton.

McLeod, who lives in Pemberton North, spoke at the regular council meeting of Tuesday, Oct. 16, and asked the council to consider making changes to the bylaw governing water rates "in the interest of fair and equal treatment for all residents of the Community of Pemberton."

McLeod had four concerns. Firstly, he said residents with meters inside the boundaries of the Village of Pemberton pay an annual fee of $75.96 for water consumption and 70 cents per cubic metre on usage, only for the amount they use. If a resident with a meter used the 1,200 cubic metre annual average consumption they would pay $840.00 in addition to the annual fee of $75.96. This, McLeod believes, impacts 12 residents.

Secondly, residents without meters inside the boundaries of the Village of Pemberton pay an annual fee of $342.99, said McLeod. They also pay water fees based on frontage tax, which varies with each residence. Their annual water fee is approximately $500, based on a 1,200 cubic metre annual consumption residents would pay approximately 42 cents per cubic metre.

Thirdly, residents with meters outside the Village of Pemberton boundaries pay an annual fee of $749.44 based on 1,200 annual cubic metre consumption, he said. Anything above that is charged at $1.04 per cubic metre. Finally, McLeod said residents without meters outside the Village of Pemberton boundaries pay $2,000 annual fee for water consumption.

Among a list of questions about the issue, McLeod told councillors that he wanted to know why the rates differed so much, with cost increases varying from three to 100 per cent, and that he wanted clarification on the discrepancy between inside the Village of Pemberton boundary charge of $1,200 compared to outside the Village of Pemberton boundary charge of $2,000 for nonfunctioning meters.

"Why is there not a basic per cubic metre usage fee for water consumption for all residents in the Pemberton community?" he asked. "This bylaw needs to be revisited. Failing that there should be an independent audit of the entire Pemberton water system."

Council took a copy of McLeod's presentation for information.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy responded by pointing out that there was a difference between residents inside Village of Pemberton boundaries and those living outside in Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Area C.

"The fact that there are differential rates is entirely legitimate and justified. In my mind, anyway, it's the Village of Pemberton structure and the Village of Pemberton provides services to our constituents... we have no obligation to provide service outside the village boundaries, maybe morally, perhaps; legally, no," he said.

"That is a decision for council to make in terms of differential rates."

"There's a lot to be said for (metering). I think that, ultimately, that's where we go. The problem with it... what we determined is two things: one, that the capital cost of converting the village to a meter system is in the neighbourhood of a million dollars, and the net result of that is that we would be simply redistributing the water bill."

Instead the Village decided to target areas to get a sense of usage. Pemberton's chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland said usage was actually well below 1,200 cubic metres; in 2007 the average usage per household was 415 cubic metres per year.

Sturdy said that metered connections within the village remained relatively low, approximately 130 meters.

"It is complicated, I acknowledge that. Pemberton North is a challenge for us and remains a challenge. We are looking to create a long-term agreement with Pemberton North, although the indication is that they're seeking to look for another water supply pull out of our system. So we'll have to see where that goes. We have a dispute on rates there," he said. "The bottom line is that we have a system that needs to be paid for."

Sturdy became terse when McLeod asked him if he accepted the "discrimination" of setting water rates depending on where people lived and requested "greater transparency."

"So you're willing to discriminate between users?" McLeod asked Sturdy.

"That's exactly right," Sturdy said.

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