Epcor’s ownership of White Rock’s water utility was no moneymaking venture

LETTERS: Murky tale of empire-building

Editor:

After seeing the City of White Rock spend our money for a full-page ad, I thought I would add my two cents’ worth.

Editor:

After seeing that the City of White Rock found it necessary to spend our money for a full-page ad in Peace Arch News on Oct. 21 to tell residents how to make White Rock’s swamp water supply safe for farm animals to consume, I thought I would add my two cents’ worth.

This is my take on how this whole thing got started.

Way back when, the owners of White Rock Utilities decided they didn’t want to be in the water business any more. The reason, in my opinion, is fairly simple. Being in the water business, they knew the nuts and bolts of the business. And when they added up what it was going to cost them to stay in the water business, I believe they decided it was going to be too costly.

They let it be known the utility was on the market, and who should decide to get into the water business but our city fathers, who, I believe, know as much about water and business as I know about nuclear physics.

Then up stepped Epcor.

Now, Epcor happens to be in the water business, not only in Canada but also they are very active in the U.S. Not only are they in the water business but also the electricity business and the electricity-transmission business. They are right now in the process of purchasing New Mexico American Water and Arizona American Water for an estimated $470 million U.S.

Epcor Utilities Inc. has only one shareholder, the City of Edmonton.

So the deal was made to sell the White Rock water system to Epcor, I guess based on their expertise, reliability and perhaps they even had the best interest of White Rock residents in mind.

I like to give the benefit of the doubt so I’m thinking that after Epcor did the deal, they, at some point, found out what they had really purchased, considering the amount of taxpayer dollars being thrown at the utility today – $41 million, by my count, and counting.

Everybody knows that when life deals you lemons, you make lemonade. Everybody also knows that when life deals you a turkey, you cannot make lemonade out of it, no matter how much money you throw at it.

Problem: after all the number crunching, I believe Epcor found it was going to cost them a fortune to bring it up to an acceptable standard, far more than it was worth and the payback time was unreasonable.

Answer: sell it to the City of White Rock.

There is a non-disclosure clause in the agreement (Water deal muzzles for 3 years, Nov. 18, 2015), and I don’t believe it was Epcor’s idea.

There is also the fact the deal has gone or is going to arbitration. Why? What is it about this deal that requires an arbitrator to resolve a deal involving two consenting parties (and I am not talking about us taxpayers)?

This smacks of the same flavour of empire-building as the White Rock Fire Department debacle a number of years ago, when Surrey offered to amalgamate Surrey and White Rock fire departments and save White Rock taxpayers $17 million. It never happened (White Rock firefighters declare victory, May 14, 2010), and according to one member, council was never told of the offer.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Barry Gaudin, White Rock

 

 

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