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UBID board rejects call to assess merits of transferring water works to regional district

Langley Lake is the source of drinking water for Union Bay - File photo
Langley Lake is the source of drinking water for Union Bay
— image credit: File photo

Union Bay Improvement District board of trustees are not interested in assessing the merits of converting its water supply and distribution to the regional district.

It appears that the board has chosen to ignore the wishes of 425 residents – Union Bay has less than 700 households – who have signed a petition calling for UBID's Letters Patent for drinking water, fire protection and street lighting be turned over to the CVRD.

Trustee Susanna Kaljur put forward a motion to form a committee to look at the pros and cons of transferring its assets to the CVRD. It is similar to the motion that was rejected by the board on December 14, 2016.

Kaljur indicated the ministry at the in-camera meeting last month made it clear that the bid to dissolve UBID and transfer to CVRD is a "valid consideration" which the board should consider in the long term. The committee will include landowners plus Trustee chair.

"This committee would report their findings to the board and suggest next steps. I am willing to Chair this committee if no one else is," said Kaljur.

The motion was again defeated with board chair Peter Jacques, trustees Rick Bitten and Glenn Loxam voting against it. Kaljur and Jim Elliott voted in favour of forming the committee.

Jacques and Bitten have expressed their views on this issue, expressing their own personal interpretations of discussions the board has had with the chair of the Comox Valley Regional District Bruce Jolliffe and the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development.

Bitten said the ministry told them to shelve the petition and to focus more on pressing issues. He specifically asked "how valid the petition is and how they should react to it."

"I was told we had other more important things to address, it's a two year transition period at minimum," said Bitten. "We've got to meet our deadlines now. The regional district can't come in and meet our deadline. We have deadlines with penalties and fines. We do not need to deal with this now. And we already voted on this exact motion. And actually the information with the meeting with the ministry, tells us that its a very long term process and that we don't need to start it now. That is exactly what they told us. Take care of business and put this aside. And that's exactly what I believe in."

During the question period Jacques, in his reply to landowner Karin Valeri about the petition, stated that in his own opinion "right now the regional district really doesn't want anything to do with us."

"I got that distinct impression when Trustee Loxam and I attended the meeting back in July with the regional district," Jacques said. "At that time, the present board was trying to get an approval on a MOU. They basically shot it down. They would not sign it. It was supposed to be an MOU with the developer KIP.  He would not sign it. I was confused because we came out of that meeting wondering what had taken place. So anyway, I finally did have a conversation, this was not official, with Mr. Jolliffe who was the chair for the regional district. Their primary concern was the fact that they didn't want to get stuck with a system that required nothing but money and a lot of work to get into place."

Valeri asked, "so that was Mr. Jolliffe?"

"I must caution this is unofficial," said Jacques. "This is over the back fence kind of thing because I wondered what happened at the meeting. This is just my opinion so you can't take this to the bank. Did they not come up with a budget of something like a $105 million for a filtration plant for the rest of the district? So they have a lot bigger fish to fry. I'm just guessing here."

Jacques also pointed out that when Royston converted to the regional district, "they inherited a real problem with the water system there that they had to deal with. So they don't want to get their hands burned."

Jolliffe told the Echo he was a bit puzzled by Jacques' statement.

"I am not sure how Peter came up with his comment," said Jolliffe. "I did explain there was a process to be followed. I also mentioned that it takes a bit of time, it is not overnight as there are steps in that process."

As far as Royston goes, Jolliffe explained, "the only thing I mentioned was that there were some challenges. It was not to do with taking over the physical water system and its operations. I didn't go into depth as to what those challenges were with Peter. They were not about the process. He may have made his own interpretation on my use of the word 'challenges.'"

The CVRD recently took over the Sandwick Waterworks District this year and Jolliffe said they had no issues with it.

Kaljur sought clarification from Jacques over his statement that the CVRD was not interested in the MOU that was reached last June with a government facilitator. The UBID board signed it but the developer Kensington Island Properties rejected it.

"You spoke about the regional district seemingly not being interested in the memorandum of understanding and we've got a letter from the lawyer of the CVRD in September and they said they would very much like to support 40-50 residential units of development, saying that they had a few minor concerns about the languaging," said Kaljur. "So that they were quite open to that idea. So I just wanted to clarify and that's right from the lawyer."

Jacques said, "I'm not privy to that."

Susanna reminded him that it was given to them and discussed at the December 7th in-camera meeting.

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