If Lantzville councillors really want to renegotiate a multi-year water agreement with Nanaimo, then it is up to them get the discussions flowing with city councillors.
Lantzville and Nanaimo signed a $1.3-million water supply deal in 2014 that would see Nanaimo provide water to 225 homes located in upper Lantzville that are already on the district’s municipal water system. The 20-year deal, which has not been triggered, also allows for 50 new development connections a year plus the option for an additional 211 connections made to residents on private wells for a cost of $5,900.
In June 2016, Lantzville councillors went before Nanaimo council asking for a number of amendments to the agreements. Some of the amendments Lantzville has been looking for include changing wording to allow all areas of Lantzville to connect to a water supply, allowing the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation the ability to receive Nanaimo water and replacing the phrase “water system capital costs” to “water service surcharge” in order to reduce concerns about direct capital contribution or liabilities.
A month after Lantzville went before Nanaimo councillors, the city issued a written reply calling for a meeting between both municipalities, the Snuneymuxw First Nation and RDN to discuss water supply within the region. The letter did not address any of Lantzville’s proposed amendments and the only meetings that have taken place since then have been between staff from both municipalities, who last met in December to iron out technical details of the agreement.
Coun. Jerry Hong told the News Bulletin that he would be open to renegotiating the water agreement, calling it a “terrible” deal for residents of Nanaimo. He said had he been a councillor when the deal was voted on, he would have voted against it.
“If that exact agreement were to come to me now I would not support it,” he said. “It’s a great deal for Lantzville but it’s not fair for the residents of Nanaimo.”
Hong doesn’t mind supplying Lantzville with water but believes residents in that community should actually pay at least 10 per cent more in connection costs than residents in Nanaimo are currently paying.
“I am willing to give them water, but not at the same rate us because that does nothing for us to grow our town…” he said. “I am not against giving Lantzville water but I want to be making money on these things because I am tired of depending on taxes.”
Hong said he wouldn’t push to cancel the deal because he recognizes that it was signed and should be honoured under the terms that were agreed upon at the time.
There is no specific language in the deal that prevents either side from cancelling the deal prematurely.
Coun. Ian Thorpe said should Lantzville decide to pursue changes to the deal, he would like to know more about what any changes to the deal could mean for the future of Nanaimo’s water supply.
“That is certainly something that we would want to look at and I would be very interested in ensuring that it didn’t affect our supply long term because water is our No. 1 resource, there is no doubt about that and we have to be very careful how we treat that resource,” he said, adding that at the end of the day the ball remains in Lantzville’s court.
Coun. Gord Fuller said when Lantzville unveiled the $800,000 inter-connection pipeline last June, the only representative from the city who attended the ceremony was Nanaimo’s mayor and that was disappointing to him because councillors were never invited and it could have been an opportunity for both sides to meet face-to-face. He said if Lantzville councillors want to make changes to the deal, the onus is on them start engaging.
“I would be more than happy to sit down with Lantzville’s council to discuss the water agreement,” he said. “When a agreement … takes too long and someone comes back to you wanting to get revisions to it, they should be willing to meet with you to do that.”
Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime told the News Bulletin he would be very open to meeting with councillors from Nanaimo, but with the understanding that the meeting would be focused on the minor amendments in an effort to get water to existing residents and not on renegotiating the entire deal. He said even though Nanaimo has yet to indicate a direction, he would be more than willing to make it known that Lantzville is still very interested in pursuing its requested amendments.
“We can knock on the door again,” he said.
Both councillors Bob Colclough and John Coulson said they would be happy to meet with the city. Colclough said he would be happy to discuss the proposed amendments and address any confusions or concerns arising from the agreement, adding that even if councillors couldn’t agree on any changes to the agreement, it would still be beneficial to hold a face-to-face meeting.
“There might be some things that are easy to sort out and there might be some things that are harder to sort out, but either way it would be good to sit down and have a meeting,” he said.