Keeping the taps on

The City of Campbell River will provide northern Area D residents with drinking water for at least one more year

The City of Campbell River will provide northern Area D residents with drinking water for at least one more year.

At last week’s board meeting, Strathcona Regional District directors agreed to extend an existing agreement with the city.

The water service agreement, under which the city provides water services to the area north of the Oyster River to Ocean Grove Road and west to the boundary of Strathcona Provincial Park, was implemented on Dec. 21, 2011. It expired, however, just over one month ago, on Dec. 31.

Dave Leitch, CAO of the regional district, suggested the board take the city up on its offer to extend the agreement until the end of this year.

“During the past five-year term, the city has provided exemplary technical and operational support to the regional district,” Leitch said. “It is recommended that the regional board support an extension of the agreement to provide an un-interrupted water service to the residents of northern electoral Area D.”

The City of Campbell River offered the extension based on a three per cent inflationary adjustment. That same increase in service fees has been applied annually throughout the five-year term of the agreement.

The annual fee for water service delivery was $81,149 in 2016.

In the 2017 budget, Area D residents are estimated to be paying $97.43 in taxes for water.

The service, though, has not been without controversy.

Last year, Area D Director Brenda Leigh was angry with the regional district board’s approval of a more than 50 per cent increase for Area D water rates.

At that time, in order to meet the revenue targets in the 2016 financial plan, residential water rates in Area D had to increase from $260 to $402 annually and non-residential rates from $286 to $442. Leigh, though, said she couldn’t see any justification for the rate hike.

“There’s no rationale behind this bylaw,” Leigh said last August. “An increase to our utility bills by 54 per cent by the City of Campbell River is absolutely unconscionable.”

Area D’s water rates are 1.6 times the annual rate that the City of Campbell River charges.

The city charges higher rates to water users outside of the city limits in order to cover water delivery costs. 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 it ages and the community grows.