Ministry OK with water transfer

No purchase price for White Rock's water utility not an issue for comptroller.

White Rock's Merklin Street reservoir.

White Rock's Merklin Street reservoir.

The outstanding purchase price of White Rock’s water utility was not a factor in the Comptroller of Water Rights’ approval of the transfer, a ministry spokesperson confirmed last week.

The question over whether the Deputy Comptroller was aware the purchase price had not been determined prior to his approval of the transfer was raised by a resident this month in a request for reconsideration of the decision.

“The ministry was aware that the final purchase price had yet to be determined,” Greig Bethel, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said in an email Thursday afternoon. “Approving the transfer agreement was not contingent upon knowing the purchase price.”

Several other issues were brought up by Dorothy Bower in the request for reconsideration, including public outreach by the city, who she said “misled” the deputy comptroller on the scope of engagement regarding the sale.

Bower cited a “junk mail flyer” distributed by the city in June, prior to its public-information meeting June 16, as an example: “Virtually no one in the city noticed the little flyer stuffed in the middle of the junk mail.”

City manager Dan Bottrill referred to the flyer as a “mailed notice… to every single property address in White Rock” in an Oct. 7 email to the secretary of the Deputy Comptroller outlining the city’s public-engagement process, noting it was a “highly unusual step for White Rock to take.”

On Monday, Bottrill told Peace Arch News he had “looked at the application” submitted by Bower Dec. 7, but had no concerns.

“I’m comfortable with the level of consultation that we had with our community,” Bottrill said.

“I don’t know how you could live in this community without knowing that this is going on, with the amount of discussion, debate, community forums, newspaper coverage, social-media attention, our website and our mail-out.”

Regarding the three-year confidentiality provision in the purchase agreement – which Bower highlighted as an “extraordinary level of confidentiality” – Bottrill said it was one of the issues the city was forced to deal with.

“I don’t think there really was any particular specific rationale for three years versus two years versus four years, it was just one of the pieces we had to work through,” he said.