The Regional District of Central Kootenay has shelved the idea of creating a water supply board until January.
The new body would be comprised of the 11 rural regional directors plus the Town of Creston and govern the 19 water systems the district owns and operates, including South Slocan, Ymir, Riondel, Balfour, Edgewood, Fauquier, Burton, and Erickson. However, some directors including rural Salmo’s Hans Cunningham, who asked for the delay, want a cost-benefit analysis first.
“The difference is operating the water systems centrally or from their separate areas,” he said. “When you operate centrally, you have the benefit of specialized knowledge but because we’re a large regional district, we have a long way to go to service systems on the outside areas.”
Cunningham said in Ymir’s case, annual rates have more than quadrupled in recent years and are now about twice what people in Creston pay — whereas it used to be about the same or a little lower. He blamed the increase on the fact maintenance is no longer handled by someone in the community.
Cunningham added that he didn’t want the water board to become an election issue: “This is silly season. I’d like to discuss it sanely.”
However, rural Kaslo director Andy Shadrack balked at the delay, saying it could further hold up the regional district’s acquisition of other community water systems, including one in his area. “They were in the process of becoming a [regional district] system and have been held up 18 months. That simply isn’t fair,” he said.
Directors narrowly voted in favour of referring the matter until after November’s elections. In the meantime, they are expected to further study the idea.
When it was put forth earlier this year, administrator Brian Carruthers said the water board was intended to “ensure consistency in how water services are delivered.”
Existing volunteer management commissions would remain in place for the time being, but the water board would have to decide whether they would continue to have a role in operating the systems and setting rates.
The new water board could consider lifting the moratorium, but its main focus would be existing systems.
This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser.