Despite strong objections heard during the Committee of the Whole meeting in the morning, Grand Forks city council passed the water regulation bylaw with the fourth and final reading at the regular city council meeting Monday night.
The water regulation bylaw 1973 sets the guidelines for the city to establish a water system and provide water to the residents and businesses and other consumers in Grand Forks.
Before voting in the new bylaw, council repealed the former water regulation bylaw 1501.
Council also voted for municipal ticket information amendment bylaw 1957, which covers penalties for violations to the water regulation bylaw.
Each vote went 5-1 in favour with Mayor Brian Taylor and councillors Cher Wyers, Patrick O’Doherty, Bob Kendel and Gary Smith voting in favour and councillor Michael Wirischagin as the only one opposed. Councillor Neil Krog was absent.
There was little discussion from the dozen or so people in attendance regarding the vote. That was certainly not the case in the morning during the committee of the whole where council heard a presentation from Karin Bagn of the People’s Review Commission opposing the water meter installation.
After Bagn spoke, a member of the audience gathered at the old Canpar building asked a question of council. When Bagn answered from the floor, Mayor Taylor banged his gavel and quickly called a recess in order to restore order. Several audience members booed Taylor loudly.
After a short break, Taylor reconvened the committee of the whole meeting and proceeded on to the rest of the agenda items.
Taylor told the Gazette after the meeting that the final reading of the water regulation bylaw means the city is now ready for installation of the water meters.
“It means the rules are in place and the penalties are in place,” he said. “So we’re all ready for the installation to go ahead.”
Taylor said he believes that council has listened to the community’s concerns. He added that even though some people aren’t in favour of water meters, they understand the meters will help the city with conservation and fair distribution of costs.
Wirischagin told the Gazette he changed his mind about the water rates bylaw after speaking to the people.
“I originally voted in favour of the first three readings of the bylaw,” he said. “The reason the bylaw gets three readings and then a break is to give it time to breathe and allow for public feedback. Over the past month or so, I’ve had quite a lot of feedback on the water rates bylaw.”
Wirischagin said the fine of $1,000 for tampering was a contentious issue that was brought to his attention.
“Honestly, most people who brought it to my attention were people who had never spoke up and were outside of this group (People’s Review Commission),” he said. “It’s a deterrent to keep people from fiddling with their water meters and trying to go around them. However, after hearing some of the arguments that it was excessive and maybe there was a better way to deal with it, (I changed my mind).”
Wirischagin said he is not opposed to water meters but is against universal water meter installation.
“I still think they should be voluntary,” he said. “That’s why over the last six years I’ve voted against it every single time it’s come up. I just think there is a better way to do it.”
Installing the water meters will be Neptune Technology Group from Ontario. They are expected to start very soon and finish up by October. The cost for the water meters is expected to be $1.3 million which will come out of gas tax money.