A new “watchdog” group has formed in Grand Forks over concerns about the upcoming water meter installation.
At the July 21 Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting, spokesperson Karin Bagn spoke to council about the goals of the People’s Review Commission on Water Metering created in Grand Forks.
Bagn for a couple of minutes before being cut off by Mayor Brian Taylor for going over the pre-set, two-minute time limit.
“That has ran well over two minutes,” said Taylor to Bagn. “Council, do you wish to hear any further comment from this speaker?”
Councillor Gary Smith replied no, while no other councillor spoke up.
Bagn said she had never spoken at council before and being cut off was a violation of her rights as a citizen and resident.
“I am legally blind—I cannot read my written comments so I’ve prepared them and I will provide them to be included as part of the record,” she said. “We have begun a People’s Review Commission to access whether or not the people want to pursue litigation associated with water metering. We’d much prefer to have a cooperative engagement with the city. If the city is not willing to do that, we’ll look at other avenues.”
In an email, Doug Allin, city chief administrative officer, told the Gazette that he had not heard of the People’s Review group.
Answering the question about whether an injunction against water metering is possible, Allin said, “I have not heard of this as there are over 120 municipalities from B.C. which have installed water meters. This would require a lawyer and judge.”
Taylor told the Gazette that council has the authority to act regarding water meter installation under the Municipal Act.
“I think her comments at this point were more meant to get our attention than anything else,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really a risk. We didn’t get into a discussion of the ‘what if’ of the situation. It would be the first of its kind for someone to challenge how we spend our gas tax money.”
Bagn has lived in Grand Forks for nine years and has been a practicing lawyer for over 30 years. She has an on-going post-conviction criminal law practice in Colorado. She is currently studying for her Canada law boards.
She admits she is getting into the water meter battle late in the game. “I have to confess that I did not keep myself adequately informed on what was going on in my community,” said Bagn. “When I heard water meters it didn’t register that these water meters were using microwave technology. When I did make the connection I found out about the technology and all the health risks.”
She said countries such as Ireland, Australia and the United States are now removing water meters and smart meters because of health risks.
“People I talked to here are feeling discouraged,” said Bagn. “They say, ‘Oh well, there’s nothing we can do, city government says we have to have these meters.’ I don’t believe that the city government has the right to impose something on the populace without doing so according to principles of fundamental justice under Section 7 of the charter.”
In her letter to council and staff, Bagn wrote about several concerns about water meters including:
1. Residents are concerned about health hazards of microwave technology used in water metering and believe their concerns have not been adequately addressed by the city;
2. Many members of the community believe there are serious privacy issues associated with the manner and implementation of water meters, and believe these concerns have not been adequately addressed; and
3. Many residents object to being forced into water meters at all. Resident object to being forced to have meters installed on their property by virtue of severe fines and threat of lawsuits for non-compliance.
The commission plans to prepare a report and hold a public meeting down the road when it will discuss the findings.
“After considering the findings and recommendations of the commission, the people of Grand Forks and surrounding areas will be able to cooperatively and jointly make well-informed decisions about what steps, if any, should be implemented as a result,” said Bagn.
Bagn said she believes everyone has the responsibility to step up for their community.
“A lot of people are fearful. A lot of people believe what City Hall tells them and that’s they have no choice,” said Bagn. “Sometimes it takes someone to stand up and say, ‘hey, let’s slow down. Let’s really make sure this decision is healthy and safe and arrived at through proper means.’ We don’t want litigation—we want justice.”