Queen Charlotte water rates to double, as council wants a referendum and to borrow $900,000

  • Apr. 9, 2008 7:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Queen Charlotte water users could soon be paying double the what they are now, after council decided it wants to borrow up to $900,000. The cash is needed to place the new water system’s intake above an old garbage dump, a move most community members demanded last fall. But under the Community Charter (the provincial legislation that governs municipalities), council must receive permission to borrow, either from the entire electorate or from those who will be directly affected by the loan (ie. the property owners). This means either a referendum for those living in the water service area, or a petition from property owners (see separate story in the Observer).All options were looked at, and at Monday’s meeting, councillors voted to hold a referendum, meaning all qualified voters who use village water will be able to vote. But timing is a major issue, and a problem. Mayor Carol Kulesha told the concerned citizens who packed council chambers that holding a referendum may take three to four months. Work in the Honna River, where the intake will be placed, can only be done in a short summer ‘window’ set by Fisheries and Oceans, she said. “We may very well miss the fisheries window,” Ms Kulesha said. Queen Charlotte resident Lea Olsen asked why has it taken so long for this to come to the public’s attention. Council has known about the need for a borrowing bylaw since last fall, she said. “Why all of a sudden a last ditch effort?” she asked. Mayor Kulesha said attempts to find other funding for the project, as well as redoing studies needed now the intake is to be moved, delayed things. She also said each option had to be researched, which also took time. Village staff has been working on a $400,000 application to Towns for Tomorrow, a provincial fund directed at communities with a population under 5,000. It’s not clear that the village will receive any of this money, as the program has more applicants than money.The $900,000 loan, if approved by residents, will be for a 20-year term. At 5 percent interest, it will cost villagers a total of $1,500,000. With less than 400 water users, Mayor Kulesha said water rates would rise from $15.90 to $31.65 a month, or from about $190 to $380 per year. The date for the referendum has not been set, and if it turns out the fisheries window cannot be met this year, it will likely be held along with the municipal election in November.

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