The District of Hope is closer than it’s ever been to completely taking over a long-troubled private water system.
But the ink still isn’t dry on the deal, and as yet another billing date gets closer, that’s got residents on the water system nervous.
Customers of 753 Waterworks, which is in receivership to the province, have already been getting district water for several years. But the pipes that carry that water belong to 753, along with all its debt and assets. This July, council made the decision to take over 753 Waterworks and bring its customers in line with the rest of Hope. Currently, the 200-plus customers of 753 pay about four times what other homeowners pay for the exact same water.
At the council meeting on Dec. 9, staff assured councillors and mayor that a transfer is nearing completion, likely by February 1 if not sooner.
They ratified three resolutions to keep up the momentum, including authorizing the cost of borrowing for the acquisition of 753 Waterworks over the entire tax base of the District of Hope, and authorizing staff to prepare borrowing bylaws for the $1.8 million estimated by True Consulting for upgrades.
But it didn’t happen without plenty of discussion between council and staff.
Councillor Bob Erickson put forward a motion that the transfer be completed by Jan. 1. After much back and forth, that motion was voted down and a new motion by Councillor Scott Medlock was approved, with a date of Feb. 1.
There was also a suggestion that the District borrow more than the $1.8 million with the intention of doing even more upgrades as they arise. But finance director Dale Courtice told council that the funds being borrowed had to be specifically used for the projects requested. That being said, he added, if the project were to come in under budget, any leftover borrowed funds would be moved into reserves for waterworks upgrades in the future.
The borrowing of $1.8 million will add about $49 a year to each water user in the district, including those who are currently under 753 Waterworks, for 25 years.
With 753 Waterworks in receivership, customers are still required to pay the rate set out by company. They are billed quarterly roughly the same amount the District of Hope charges annually. Moreover, while the District’s payments are due in the summer, 753 Waterworks customers are automatically billed on Jan. 1 for the upcoming quarter.
Council and staff discussed at length the best way to deal with billing, and staff noted to the public in the gallery that it would be advised to cancel their credit card payments to 753 Waterworks and await further instruction from the District.
CAO John Fortoloczky said they will be informing customers as soon as possible how the billing will roll out.