Regional District of Central Kootenay directors John Kettle and Larry Binks and Creston Mayor Ron Toyota failed to reach agreement on how to divvy up water costs from the Arrow Creek Water Treatment and Supply Service (ACWTSS) on Wednesday and voted to turn over the dispute to a former RDCK board chair.
The directors met at Creston and District Community Complex on Wednesday to hold a preliminary service review meeting that was triggered when the Town of Creston and RDCK agreed to initiate the process.
When Toyota, RDCK chair and Area B director Kettle and Area C director Binks were unable to agree to a new cost-sharing agreement, or other issues brought to the table by the town (the service’s major funder and user), a service review was initiated.
A service review, RDCK chief administrative officer Jim Gustafson said, can be a relatively informal process, or it can become formalized with the appointment of a mediator. If an agreement still can’t be reached, the service review could be referred to the provincial government, which could impose a resolution.
Gustafson cautioned the elected officials not to undertake a service review lightly.
“Sometimes when you start to take things apart you can’t put them together again,” he said.
An agreement on cost sharing appeared to be close, with the town agreeing to pay 59 per cent of the operating costs, but Binks was rankled after he said the three directors had earlier agreed to a 60/40 split.
A resolution to the meeting by the town included a number of other issues, including:
•“The town will not accept the assessed value of properties as a fair and equitable metric to determine cost sharing of the Arrow Creek water system.”
Steffan Klassen, Creston’s finances and corporate service director, estimated the town has about 80 per cent of the assessed property values in the area served by the ACWTSS. Earlier in the decade, a 63/37 town/RDCK cost share split was instituted based on estimated usage.
On Thursday, town engineer Colin Farynowski said measurements since that agreement indicate a 59/41 usage split.
•“Council requests the RDCK review the governance model in 2012 for the Arrow Creek Water Commission to incorporate an equitable voting structure based on the principal of consumption (user pay).”
Currently, the ACWTSS is governed by a one director, one vote system, which leaves the town in a minority position when voting on resolutions or motions.
•“A cost sharing agreement for the Erickson reservoir is not subject to negotiations related to development of a cost sharing agreement for the Arrow Creek water system, and instead shall be treated as a separate negotiation process.”
Construction of concrete balancing reservoirs in Erickson is a priority. Creston constructed its own reservoir within its boundaries after the water treatment plant was built.
The purpose of the service review, the directors agreed, is that “the parties agree the purpose of the review is to examine and develop options with respect to operations, governance, funding, cost recovery, cost allocation and expenditure of funds from the Arrow Creek Water Treatment and Supply Service is both funded and expended equitably among the service participants, as well as to establish a lasting framework for sustainability of the service.”
A motion was passed to request former RDCK chair Gary Wright of New Denver to undertake the service review. Total costs of the review are not to exceed $50,000.