Pleased with the progress seen over the past two weeks, Pemberton council has deferred adoption of a bylaw that would give the village the legal right to turn off the taps to the Pemberton North Water Service (PNWS).
Officials from the village and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) are expected to meet next month to address the $449,000 in fees accumulated since rates for the PNWS doubled in 2007 before the bylaw is pursued further.
Council gave the first three readings to a water termination bylaw on Dec. 4, which would have authorized the village to end water service for PNWS users at the end of 2013, with the intent of spurring negotiations between the two government agencies.
That move prompted the SLRD to request that council defer adoption until the regional district could respond, and council chose to go that route instead of acting on the staff recommendation presented at its Tuesday (Dec. 18) meeting.
The village sells water in bulk to the SLRD to be used by Area C residents on the PNWS, but without a formal operating agreement. It raised the rate per cubic metre to $1.04 five years ago, but the SLRD has continued to pay at the old 52-cent rate.
Given the amount the village feels it is owed, Coun. Ted Craddock came in “fully committed” to adopting the bylaw.
“We need to protect our constituents and let them know we’re here for them,” he said, noting that the $449,000 owed by the SLRD could finance more than one-third of a new, $1.2-million reservoir that is on the village’s work plan.
However, Mayor Jordan Sturdy said discussions at the SLRD board table on Monday (Dec. 17) convinced him that making a “gesture” to the regional district by deferring adoption by a full month might be the most ideal route.
“It’s not a huge change, but we could see if there’s any kind of momentum (in negotiations),” said Sturdy. “At the meeting yesterday, I think we created a better understanding at the board level of what some of the options may be.”
Alternatives that Sturdy pointed to included a boundary expansion bringing the PNWS under the village’s authority, or creating a service area in similar fashion to the industrial park.
Although he said it was unfortunate it had to come to the threat of terminating service, Coun. Mike Richman said he felt the bylaw’s appearance had sparked progress in working towards a resolution. Others around the table shared that opinion.
“I would certainly agree that the first three readings of this bylaw attracted some attention,” said Sturdy. “It has succeeded in some respects.”
Sturdy is expected to report back to council on negotiations during its Jan. 22 meeting.