French Creek residents facing 38 per cent increase in water bills

One resident is saying a change of ownership of the utility should be considered

A representative of the French Creek Residents’ Association is upset with a 38 per cent increase to water bills and wants his neighbours to consider other options.

While a smaller increase than proposed, residential water rates in French Creek are going up 37.8 per cent over three years after a decision by the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights.

“The association is disappointed with the final decision by the comptroller but at this stage there is nothing further to be done,” said French Creek Residents Association vice-president Rob Williams. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in what the comptroller has done. We believe we have reason to question whether the comptroller is able to handle situations like this,” he said, adding that with 2,000 customers, French Creek is the third largest of 1,700 water services Epcor, a City of Edmonton-owned company, provides.

Epcor applied in February to increase water rates 46 per cent over three years. After a review by the comptroller, the average monthly water bill will increase from $45.30 to $62.42, or $3.75 less than proposed.

The basic water rate is increasing by 33 per cent, rather than Epcor’s proposed 40 per cent and the rate rider, which garnered several complaint letters to the editor when proposed, will increase 4.6 per cent, rather than the proposed 5.8 per cent.

Customers will get a partial refund for the interim rate charged since March 31, based on the proposed increases.

Williams said there was no indication the comptroller took any of their submissions into consideration, including suggestions to decrease overhead costs, and skip items like a high tech flow meter and new master plan, which they say are not needed.

“But we have no choice but to live with it, it’s the word from God, there’s nothing we can do.”

“We will be pursuing the subject of ownership with the RDN (Regional District of Nanaimo),” Williams said, adding that Epcor actually owns the water service, it’s not a matter of a contract change.

“Their primary focus is to increase the value of their equity and to make a profit,” he said.

“We would have to buy them out, which we could do and I think would be worth it. We want to try this,” Williams concluded.

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