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Criticism directed at North Westside director
North Westside director Jim Edgson is drawing fire for his handling of soaring water rates.
Both the North Westside Communities Association and the North Westside Ratepayers Association are fighting a 190 per cent increase in fees by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
“People are very concerned with the lack of consultation,” said Marsali MacIver, NWCA president.
“Our director did not consult with people in a public way. There were no public meetings before the (RDCO) board had a vote. A lot of people were blind sided by this.”
There is a consumption based rate (35 cents per cubic metre for all water used in excess of 235 cubic metres during a three-month billing period) for the utilities for Killiney Beach, Westshore and Upper Fintry/Shalal Road/Valley of the Sun.
There is also a user fee and an asset renewal fee. For Westshore Estates, the user and asset fees amounts to $632 per property, while it will be $682 for Killiney Beach and $600 for Upper Fintry/Shalal Road/Valley of the Sun residents.
Both associations held a joint meeting April 18 and while Edgson was invited, he did not attend. RDCO has stated it will respond to the groups’ concerns by May 28.
“We consider that a deadline,” said MacIver.
“If there are no substantive changes or a response, we will consider our options. We could pursue legal options but we don’t want to do that.”
The North Westside Ratepayers Association is circulating a petition urging rates be reduced.
“It’s time for people to speak out,” said Diane Baldwin, NWRA president.
Baldwin says some hike in water rates is necessary and the primary concern is with process.
“We’re asking for consultation, communication and accountability,” she said.
Edgson insists the process to replace aging infrastructure has been open.
“I have gone around the community, even before I was elected, and I saw people not being served well by the water system,” he said.
“I warned people four-and-a-half years ago that it would cost a lot and they didn’t care.”
Edgson admits there were no public input sessions before the rates were adopted March 30, but the looming 2012 budget created a tight timeline.
“If we didn’t do it now, we’d have to wait another year. Ten years we’ve been at this.”
As for not attending the associations’ April 18 meeting, Edgson says the groups knew RDCO had already scheduled an open house in the same hall.
“They wanted to control the situation and I’m sorry, we don’t do that,” he said.
“We had something set up with all of the information. All they had to do was come in to get it.”