Residents seeking answers about White Rock’s recent water-utility purchase are calling on the city to release a 2013 report outlining the projected costs of joining Metro Vancouver’s water system instead.
Dennis Lypka first made the request to the city in March 2014 – a year after the city commissioned a report from Metro for projected costs of joining the region’s water – noting, in an email to council and senior staff, that it is a “very public matter with serious ramifications to the community.”
At the time, Mayor Wayne Baldwin responded to Lypka’s request noting the city was in talks with Epcor to purchase the utility and that the report “forms part of the city’s negotiating position.”
Following another request from Lypka this month – to which city manager Dan Bottrill replied “the city does not want to compromise our negotiating position,” as the city took possession of its utility Oct. 30 without a price agreement – Baldwin told Peace Arch News the report’s confidentiality “was at the request of the GVWD (Greater Vancouver Water District).”
“We’re not members of the water district, and it was discussed in-camera with the water district,” Baldwin told PAN Monday, noting he did not know why the GVWD requested it be kept confidential.
“They have not released that publicly yet, and until they do, we can’t discuss it, unfortunately.”
Don Bradley, division manager of media relations with Metro Vancouver told PAN Wednesday that the region was following White Rock’s lead when the report was kept in-camera in the spring of 2013.
“When a municipality is considering an issue in-camera, Metro Vancouver does likewise, as a matter of practice,” Bradley said.
“In March 2013, the City of White Rock asked the GVWD to investigate options for receiving water supply from the GVWD, including the associated costs and procedures. As the City of White Rock was considering the issue in closed, the GVWD did the same.”
Bradley confirmed that if the city wanted to make the report available to the public, a procedure is in place by which Baldwin could make that request to the Metro Vancouver board.
Lypka, in a subsequent email to city staff and council, called the secrecy surrounding the report an “unexplained and disturbing mystery,” pointing to Epcor’s April 2013 Total Water Quality Management Project Application, which included estimated costs of joining Metro Vancouver’s water of $17,367,000.
“If Epcor’s report… is freely available and accessible to the public, then there is no proper justification for the City of White Rock withholding its report.”