Campbell River settles for less in Area D water deal

City council accepted an offer from the regional district that was less than what the city was asking

The dispute between the Strathcona Regional District and the city over Campbell River’s rate to supply water to Area D is over.

City council accepted an offer from the regional district last Tuesday (April 15) night during an in-camera session which was closed to the public and the media.

The amount is less than what the city was asking but City Manager Andy Laidlaw said council recognized that regional district directors were trying to compromise and council accepted that effort.

“I think they appreciated the effort from the regional district board and staff to try and work toward a solution,” Laidlaw said. “They will be accepting the rates proposed.”

The rate proposed by the regional district – and accepted by the city – is $.63 per cubic metre for bulk water to Area D retroactive to 2013 and $.72 per cubic metre for 2014, which is the rate city residents pay plus another 50 per cent.

The city was asking for $.80 per cubic metre as of Jan. 1, 2013 – a significant increase from the $.40 per cubic metre that Area D residents have been paying.

The regional district disputed the rate hike and hired a mediator last year.

Brenda Leigh, director for Area D, said its offer of $.63 for bulk water came out of those discussions.

“Our regional district hired professional negotiators to determine what would be a fair price for northern Area D households to pay for water,” Leigh said. “The negotiations have been ongoing for several months. The results and recommendations stemming from the negotiations was presented to the regional board by our CAO, Russ Hotsenpiller. The solution the SRD (Strathcona Regional District) board felt was reasonable was a 1.5 multiple of the rate paid by residents of Campbell River for water, which is more than fair.”

The arrangement is good until December 2014 and Leigh said it “will allow the region to move forward on other issues of importance.”

Area D residents will pay more for water than will Campbell River taxpayers as per the city’s policy to charge higher rates to water users outside of the city limits in order to cover the cost of delivering water to those areas.

The higher cost also compensates for water charges that customers within the city pay, but that the city is unable to collect from customers outside the city limit.

The city’s water rates are based on the funding required to cover the annual operating and maintenance costs for the water system, as well as upgrading and replacing the various components of the water system (pipes, pumps, treatment facilities, and reservoirs) as the water system ages and as the community grows.