753 Waterworks users are given a platform

Outraged 753 Waterworks users met to discuss a plan of action about a pending service rate and tariff increase

Concerned 753 Waterworks users met Wednesday, September 9 at the Silver Creek Elementary School Gym to discuss the options related to a pending service rate and tariff increase. Attendees received an extensive information packet outlining the required waterworks upgrades as well as the legalities of the hikes.

Meeting organizers Sara Burleigh, Jessie Morris, and Ray Zervini gave the floor to a packed gym, which included dignitaries MLA Laurie Throness, Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John Fortoloczky, as questions and concerns were fielded.

“It’s going through, and they don’t have the guts to tell you it’s going through,” said Burleigh of the legal obligation of users to comply with the company rate increase.

The exponential increase, which boasts a 130 per cent hike from the previous rate is on par with current water rate standards, according to stats, and a statement made by Throness during the meeting.

Failure on Deputy Comptroller Peter Bekker’s part and on behalf of the province to enforce or increase rates over the years has resulted in the rapid hike.

753 Water users may have caught a financial break over the years, but the system has fallen into a degraded state, based on the negligence of not only the comptroller, but the current owners and the facilitation of an extremely weak administration system.

The estimated total to complete improvements on the system from a District report dating back to 2011 is $539,000 (this does not specify current rates for 2015.) At the level of increase specified by the report and the current rate hike to complete improvements — the company would be expected to make a significant revenue, estimated at $159, 453, give or take a few potential expenses.

An excess of unpaid pills are also a current factor in the state of the system’s disrepair — according to Zervini, the company failed to mail out bills to an alarming number of customers, who will be expected to catch up in an expeditious manner.

“For now, it’s about putting that money in trust,” said Zervini, a suggestion made by organizers to quell the outrage of 753 users until further resolution can be determined.

A committee is currently being formed to rally for the District to take over the system, once it has been upgraded to a sufficient level — in the eventuality that does occur, all monies in the existing system would be transferred to the District to oversee the maintenance of the system.

Speeches by MLA Laurie Throness and Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, incited the audience, as Throness discussed the nature of banning together as a community to get things done, while offering his time and services to anyone who had concerns.

“I support the community in bringing the District on board,” said Throness.

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, also addressed the community’s concerns about the District’s involvement with the takeover of the derelict system.

“District, council and staff are keen on assisting 753 users, but we have to be very cautious, because refurbishing a water system can be a very expensive venture,” he said. “An up to date third party evaluation of the 753 water system is probably a good first step, certainly, council feels that the BC water comptroller’s office was not doing a proper job and they should be held accountable by the province.”

Representatives from 753 Waterworks were unavailable for comment, or attendance at the meeting.