No price agreed in sale of water utility to White Rock

Binding arbitration possible if city, Epcor fail to negotiate an amount.

Despite taking ownership and operation of the water utility two weeks ago, the City of White Rock and Epcor have yet to agree upon a purchase price, according to the city manager.

Following weeks of inquiries about the purchase price – unanswered by city officials due to “confidentiality provisions” – Dan Bottrill confirmed Tuesday that the price has yet to be determined.

“We were able to transfer the utility prior to the parties coming to a negotiated price,” Bottrill told Peace Arch News.

“At this point, we still haven’t agreed on a price. If we don’t come to an agreement, the matter can be determined by arbitration.”

Describing the negotiating process as “difficult,” Bottrill explained the city was “motivated to acquire the water utility as soon as it could.”

The transfer of ownership and operation took place on Oct. 30.

Bottrill cited “differences of opinion” on the utility’s value as one reason for the unsuccessful negotiations. When asked if the Epcor land at 1454 Oxford St. – where two highrises have been proposed – played a part in negotiations, Bottrill said the delay “has nothing to do with that, whatsoever.”

City officials had been negotiating with Epcor for two years when council voted in June to expropriate the water utility. Two months later, the city announced a purchase agreement had been reached.

Bottrill described the binding-arbitration process as similar to expropriation, but without court involvement.

There is no deadline in place for negotiations to be completed.

“An arbitrated case will have the opportunity for both sides to present their case for the fair market value of this particular utility, and ultimately an arbitrator will make a determination of what the fair market value is,” Bottrill said.

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