Answers still to come in utility takeover

Budgeted $23 million does not indicate purchase price, city manager says.

White Rock city manager Dan Bottrill speaks at a community forum the city hosted in June to discuss the purchase of the water utility.

While more details are emerging about White Rock’s plans for taking over the city’s water utility, some residents are questioning why specifics of the agreement with Epcor are not being made public.

On Friday, the city announced it would take over operations of the water utility once the acquisition from Epcor is complete – estimated to occur Oct. 30 – anticipating a “smooth transition on the operations of the water-service delivery,” according to a release.

The news of a purchase agreement between the city and Epcor came earlier this month, after months of negotiations and an announcement by city officials of plans to expropriate the water-utility system.

Shortly after the Sept. 4 announcement, resident Dorothy Bower said she began contacting city officials requesting a copy of the purchase agreement.

Her query was treated as a Freedom of Information request, and she was told by the city clerk the purchase agreement was “not yet ready” and would be subject to redactions based on advice from the city’s legal counsel.

Following up last week, Bower was told that the FOI’s response deadline had been extended for an additional 30 days, as the city awaits the “outcome of discussions” regarding the release of the agreement.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got this response,” Bower told Peace Arch News last week. “I’m just curious, I don’t know why they have to be so secretive about it.”

City manager Dan Bottrill told PAN last week the city has “some issues” that need to be looked at before they can make the purchase agreement public.

“Our solicitor is working with their solicitor, working towards what we can release,” Bottrill said. “We know that there is some personal information that would potentially have to be redacted.”

Bottrill pointed out that reports that the purchase price of the utility is $23 million are not accurate, noting that a purchase price has not yet been negotiated.

“The $23 million is the amount that was put into the financial plan amendment,” he said. “It relates to the estimated costs as well as future capital infrastructure improvements over the remaining term of the five-year plan.”

Water-utility forum

The city is hosting a Water Utility Community Forum Oct. 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre (15154 Russell Ave.) to provide residents with more information on the utility’s operations, the Total Water Quality Management Project and the impact of the change in ownership.

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