Water line extension on tap

The Regional District of North Okanagan board has given the City of Vernon approval to expand Greater Vernon Water lines to Adventure Bay

Water will be extended to a Vernon neighbourhood but financing must still be determined,

The Regional District of North Okanagan board has given the City of Vernon approval to expand Greater Vernon Water lines to Adventure Bay while  sewer services are being constructed.

“They do not have potable water,” said Greg Thompson, a city financial technician, of the failing private utility that serves the 40 properties.

While permission for extending lines has been granted, there is uncertainty over funding the $465,000 project and the utility’s $4.5 million debt.

The city had asked RDNO to use its best and reasonable efforts to assume the long-term debt for the water service extension.

However, RDNO officials stated that a decision could not be made immediately.

“This is a very significant agreement of which we haven’t had an opportunity to peruse,” said Trafford Hall, administrator.

“There are many such water systems coming down the pike so what we do here is precedent setting.”

Hall went on to say that RDNO has a responsibility to provide water in its service area but not to take on failed private utilities.

“Generally the owner bring its up to our standards and then we take it over,” he said.

Rob Sawatzky, a Vernon director, defended the city’s request.

“We have a detailed process approved by the ministry,” he said.

But RDNO is not sure if provincial legislation allows it to create a local service area to pass costs on to the affected residents.

It was suggested by director Bob Fleming that the residents pay $11,000 each for construction so RDNO has time to follow a financing process.

Catherine Lord, a Vernon director, is concerned RDNO is not taking the situation seriously, particularly given the construction timeline for sewer and possibly water lines is tight.

“My experience with the regional district is it will take a year (for a review),” she said.

“Half of these people (residents) will be dead before they get water.”

As part of RDNO’s upcoming process it will consider assuming long-term debt for the water service at Adventure Bay and establish a process to assume debt for assets that will be owned by Greater Vernon Water.

And in October, the regional board will review the current policy about taking over failed private water utilities.