Petition fails to drop North Westside water rates

North Westside residents are being told it’s too late to change water rates.

North Westside residents are being told it’s too late to change water rates.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan board has received a 300-name petition opposing water rates, which were adopted in March.

“We are already spending the money,” said director Jim Edgson, who questions why the petition is just coming  forward now.

RDCO has implemented both a consumption rate, a user fee and an asset renewal fee for the Killiney Beach, Westshore and Upper Fintry/Shalal Road/Valley of the Sun utilities.

That has led to a 190 per cent increase to fees.

“Where was the impetus to keep these taxes at a reasonable rate?” said Diane Baldwin, with the North Westside Ratepayer Association, in a letter to Bill Bennett, B.C.’s community development minister.

“Ratepayers remain outraged and consider this an unnecessary tax grab.”

The association is asking Bennett to look into the method for resolving bylaw disputes, to encourage RDCO to meet with residents and negotiate water rates and to review RDCO’s tax policies and administrative fees.

“Review why parcel taxes, called asset renewal fees, were introduced on every lot, with or without residents, absent a parcel  tax bylaw,” said Baldwin in her letter.

Baldwin questions the regional district’s communication process with residents.

“Clearly the regional director and RDCO staff knew, or ought to have known, well in advance these increases would be a huge burden on affected taxpayers,” she said.

Edgson insists the process was completely open and public information meetings were held.

“Nobody is happy about the rates but we have to keep  in mind that people had been complaining that the water system needs upgrading. I warned people it was going to cost quite a bit,” he said.

“The systems are old and getting to the point where they need to be maintained and upgraded. There wasn’t a plan in place.”

While the water rates bylaw won’t be reversed, Edgson says RDCO may look at how user fees are implemented.

“We will have to continue to look at what we’re doing,” he said.