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Water deal appears close

The dispute between the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell River over water rates may be nearing a resolution.

The regional district has provided the city with an offer and now it’s up to city council to accept it or not.

The regional district voted in-camera – a meeting closed to the public and media – to pay the city $.63 per cubic metre for bulk water to Area A retroactive to 2013 and $.72 per cubic metre for 2014, which is the rate city residents pay plus another 50 per cent.

That offer, however, is less than what the city informed the regional district that its rate would be once its water supply agreement with Area D expired in May 2012.

Area D was paying $.40 per cubic metre but the city increased its rate to $.80 per cubic metre as of Jan. 1, 2013 – which translates to two times the rate water users living within the city boundary pay.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said the huge jump in rates was not acceptable and the regional district hired a mediator to try and come up with a reasonable rate.

City Manager Andy Laidlaw said the regional district’s latest offer is an attempt at a compromise.

“The regional board indicated they are prepared to go part way here,” Laidlaw said. “These rates were passed and now they need to go back to council and council needs to decide whether to accept it or not.”

Laidlaw said that discussion will take place in-camera, following Tuesday’s council meeting.

He added that mediator George Abbott, the former education minister for the BC Liberals, has met with the city once during the water rate dispute and Laidlaw has been in discussions with regional district CAO Russ Hotsenpiller.

“We’ve come a long way in this, whether we’ve reached a decision now is up to council to decide whether to accept the offer from the Strathcona Regional District,” Laidlaw said.

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