Water deal with Lantzville waits on Nanaimo city council vote

NANAIMO – Councillors were slated to debate a water-sharing agreement with Lantzville Monday.

Lantzville mayor Jack de Jong says he’s on the edge of his seat as he waits to hear if Nanaimo city council approves a new water agreement with his rural community.

The City of Nanaimo released a report with the final terms for pumping water into upper Lantzville. The staff report recommends politicians move ahead on the deal.

Under the agreement, 225 homes  already on a municipal water system will be hooked into the city water supply for a $1.3-million connection fee and 211 additional homes on private wells will have the potential to tie into the new system in the future.  Any new connections for development would be limited to 50 each year. It’s much the same as the negotiations revealed nine months ago, according to de Jong, except the community will be billed by use instead of development cost charge rates and must support the city “politically and financially” in its quest to secure future water supply.

The agreement also shows that Lantzville will have to build new infrastructure, buy into regional services and potentially pay for future expenses, like feasibility studies and capital costs for Nanaimo water system changes that are needed to provide water to the rural community. There are also no guarantees Lantzville residents will always get water, which Nanaimo is entitled to reduce or temporarily cut off if there’s a shortage,  delay or interruption due to issues like an act of God, a labour strike or orders from governmental authorities.

The City of Nanaimo is slated to vote on the contract at an open meeting tonight (Feb. 24).

De Jong says the deal has been a long time in the making and could be a breakthrough in water service, but if passed, it also means another political challenge ahead – convincing Lantzville residents it’s a good idea.

While the supply is seen by some as a solution to limited water and contamination in private wells, others like Carl and Linda Westby have expressed concerns that the Harbour City is offering an unfair deal. Regional service contributions act like a ‘water tax’ for the whole community even though not everyone will benefit from the new service, Linda Westby told the News Bulletin last summer.

Coun. Denise Haime recently suggested a referendum on the water deal, pointing out that she’s heard there are resident concerns, and former mayor Colin Haime has sent open e-mails to the media and politicians with claims the agreement puts Lantzville residents at “considerable financial risk” and that it promotes urban development in rural areas of the community.

Haime wants to see documents released that show other water options that have been pursued and abandoned.

“I see two political challenges ahead – one is to sell the deal to Nanaimo and the second, to sell it to my own community,” said de Jong, who is “hopeful” about the vote.

The District of Lantzville has searched for an influx of water for more than a decade to help address stagnant growth, contaminated private wells and limited supply. Talks with Nanaimo about water-sharing have been ongoing for seven years.  Last year, Nanaimo city council opted to move forward by drafting a formal agreement but terms only offer restricted service to Lantzville until the city addresses its own potential future water shortages. The final decision on whether to ink the deal will be up to Lantzville officials.

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