Rate hike approved but director vows to fight on

Brenda Leigh has been fighting for a better rate for her constituents for more than a year

The Strathcona Regional District board approved water rate hikes for residents south of the city as the area director vowed to keep fighting for her constituents.

Brenda Leigh, director for Area D, agreed to adopt the new water rates – a 21 per cent increase over last year’s – in order to meet the regional district’s 2013 budget projection of $351,721 in water revenues.

But Leigh told the board at its Oct. 9 meeting that she’s not giving up on negotiating with Area D’s water supplier – the City of Campbell River – for lower rates.

“I’ll agree to this rate increase but this won’t stop our regional district from pursuing a fair resolution,” Leigh said. “I’m not in favour of rate increases that are not explained to myself or our regional district staff – this will come out during negotiations.

“This is not an end to our negotiations.”

The city and the regional district have been trying to work out a new water contract for almost two years.

Leigh said she’s still hopeful that rates will go down and Area D will come out ahead.

“Should the settlement result in a decrease, then we may end up with a surplus,” Leigh said.

But for now, water rates are going up from 40 cents per cubic metre to 80 cents per cubic metre which went into effect Jan. 1, 2013 after the last water supply agreement expired in May, 2012.

Leigh has been fighting for a better rate for her constituents for more than a year and has appealed to the B.C. Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes  for help in negotiating what Leigh says is a fair solution.

The city, meanwhile, maintains that it is charging a fair rate which more closely reflects the costs of providing water outside of its boundaries.

“The city’s water rates are higher for customers located outside city limits to ensure that all the costs of delivering water to these areas are covered,” said Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, in a March press release.

“The higher rate reflects the higher cost of delivering water to the outer limits of the city’s water system and also compensates for water charges that customers within city boundaries pay, but that the city is unable to collect from customers outside city limits.”