Councillor’s motion fails to stop water meters

Grand Forks city councillor Michael Wirischagin brought forward a motion at council on March 24 against water meter installation.

Grand Forks city council listens to a presentation from a delegation at the March 24 regular council meeting.

For the dozen or so anti-water meter proponents in attendance at city council on March 24, Councillor Michael Wirischagin gave them a little hope as he put forward a motion to hold off the installation of water meters until 2015 as originally stated in the city’s handout. The motion also stated that the meters should be optional. Wirischagin questioned the legality of having workers enter a homeowner’s house without their permission to install the meters. “Yes, all communities are heading towards water meters but very few are looking at them universally,” he said. “Vancouver, Kelowna and Castlegar all have them, but have made them voluntarily and on new builds only. There were no concerns from any of them about losing grant money.”Wirischagin went on to add that the city should honour the handout that stated the water meters wouldn’t be installed until 2015. “The discussion centres on integrity and trust and doing what you say you’re going to do. If you make a mistake and change timelines because of the mistake, that would show that the city lives up to its word.”Upon stating his motion, which was voted down 6-1, Wirirschagin received modest applause from the crowd. “At this point, I would need to get a list of those questions and get it off to our solicitor,” replied Doug Allin, city chief administrative officer. Allin added that discussion of the legalities of the water meter installations would have to be done in-camera (not open to the public) unless council instructed otherwise. He also added that it would cost the city considerable amounts of money at this point for consulting fees for the request for proposal.Allin also stated that the water meter program is essentially voluntary.Allin added that council isn’t expected to set the new rates for water until 2016 to give residents a period of adjustment with the meters.Before the vote on the motion, Mayor Brian Taylor stated he was against it. “I think this is an unnecessary waste of public money and delay in the time frames we’ve already agreed to as a group. Changing directions now, I think, would be very destructive.” After the meeting, Taylor told the Gazette that what Coun. Wirischagin proposed was completely unworkable.“There may be a staggered approach to some of the things were doing,” said Taylor. “It’s early on in the process to predict that. The option of voluntary vs. mandatory is something we’re quite aware of.”Taylor said it would perhaps be best for the city to start water meter installation with those in favour of the project and most cooperative, “But I can’t say what the timeline would be on when we service the voluntary people or whether that’s a priority or not.”But Taylor did reiterate that the city could not offer some people a flat rate while others are on meters.“Obviously, that is not going to work,” he said.Allin told the Gazette that the questions raised at council regarding the water meter installation would be addressed in an upcoming bylaw.“The city will have more details to come respecting the program with installations and timelines in the coming weeks that will be clearly outlined to ensure that all customers are aware of the way the program will be presented with timelines,” he added.

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