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White Rock eyes vote over water plan

Epcor
Epcor's Merklin Street pump station.
— image credit: File

If the City of White Rock decides to go ahead with the purchase of its water utility, White Rock residents will likely have the final say.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said last week the anticipated cost of the purchase from water-provider Epcor is expected to trigger a referendum.

“Probably be a bigger chunk of change than we can borrow without going to referendum,” he told Peace Arch News Wednesday. “The advice I have is it will probably exceed our borrowing capacity.”

City council decided last year to explore the case for purchasing its water utility. The move was announced in the midst of Epcor’s application to B.C.’s deputy comptroller of water rights for approval to carry out $11-12 million in upgrades to the city’s water system.

At last week’s council meeting – the same night the city’s 2014 property tax rate was adopted – resident Ken Jones asked how much of the city’s budget had been allocated to expenses related to the water purchase.

“Nothing, because it’s not going to happen this year,” Baldwin said.

He explained to PAN Wednesday that he “just couldn’t see us getting it through before Dec. 31 of this year, given all the bureaucracy we’ve got to go through.”

Financial services director Sandra Kurylo said $40,000-50,000 was approved to conduct a valuation of the water system; a process she said is still underway by KPMG. She said any further funds required would have to come from the city’s contingency budget.

Baldwin said if a referendum is called, it wouldn’t happen until mid-November.

Depending on the outcome, the city could be making the purchase “early in the year,” he said.

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