White Rock residents ask comptroller to intervene

Water-utility purchase made no mention that price was not agreed upon, complaint states.

A group of White Rock residents are appealing to the Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights to reconsider his approval of the water-utility sale between Epcor and the city.

In a request for reconsideration filed Sunday by Dorothy Bower, and co-signed by 51 other residents, Bower alleges that both Epcor and the City of White Rock provided the deputy comptroller with misleading information leading to the office’s Oct. 26 approval of the sale and transfer, which was finalized – without an agreed-upon purchase price – Oct. 30.

Bower claims that the approval was “premature,” citing the parties’ ongoing negotiations for a purchase price, suggesting that the Deputy Comptroller was not aware a price had not been determined.

In the documentation provided by Epcor to the Deputy Comptroller – as part of its Sept. 24  ‘application to dispose assets’ – under the heading ‘purchase price’ the redacted agreement reads: “The Purchase Price payable by the Purchaser to the Vendor for the Assets shall be (redacted) and is exclusive of Sales Taxes.”

In her request for reconsideration, Bower highlights other areas of the application that point to Epcor not disclosing that the purchase price was not determined.

“In the submission seeking approval for the transaction, Epcor states as a reason for keeping the terms concerning price confidential even from the Deputy Comptroller that they were highly negotiated, implying that the negotiations were complete, not ongoing,” Bower writes. “All of the correspondence we received from the Deputy Comptroller’s office indicated that only non-material items, such as the extent of post-closing operational co-operations, were left to be decided.”

A public affairs officer from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations confirmed the comptroller’s office has received two requests for reconsideration and said the requests will be reviewed by the ministry to determine if they have met the criteria for reconsidering, varying or rescinding the decision.

The official was not able to confirm by Peace Arch News deadline, however, if the Deputy Comptroller was aware that no price had been agreed upon when he approved the sale and transfer.

Inquiries with city manager Dan Bottrill on the matter were not responded to by PAN deadline; Epcor spokesperson Tim le Riche said in an email he felt “it is more appropriate that the owner of the asset speak to the media,” and did not give an answer when asked if Epcor had informed the comptroller that there was no purchase price in place.

“Epcor operates in a competitive environment where normal business practice is to include confidentiality in commercial agreements,” le Riche said.