In November of 2017, Kimberley City Council discussed changes around the 2018-2022 Financial Plan. Included in the plan were amendments to three separate bylaws surrounding water, sewer and solid waste rates, effective January of 2018.
The bylaws included a two per cent increase to water rates for flat rate users, and a 20 per cent increase for bulk users including Kimberley Alpine Resort (KAR), Trickle Creek Golf Course and Teck.
Council recently received a letter from KAR Area Manager Ted Funson, that states there was little communication between the City and the resort surrounding the bulk water increase.
Funston wrote, “through the newspaper we have been made aware of the City’s plan to increase bulk water rates for our ski operation and golf operation by 20 per cent in one year. We understand the need to increase rates to keep up with increasing costs and to plan for the future, but to do it all in one year makes it very difficult to plan for and run our business. We would appreciate having some more formal communication on this as to the thought process and justification for this.”
Funston added that although the relationship between KAR and the City is a good one, they feel as though the “targeted increase” is “a step in the wrong direction”.
Council discussed the letter and most agreed that there should have been more communication.
“We typically don’t announce rate increases on an individual bases, but for them to have read about their 20 per cent increase in the paper was a surprise, and of course the 20 per cent increase was a bit of a surprise as well,” said Mayor Don McCormick. “As stated in the letter, they have to fit it inside an operating climate that they don’t have.”
“This letter doesn’t surprise me, it’s expected,” said Councillor Darryl Oakley. “I think a big piece of this is education; for RCR to understand that we have pipes in the ground that need to be replaced and maintained, we have all of these things going on as a city.”
He added that the Operations Department should be meeting with RCR to go over specific costs. He compared it to Fortis bills, where every charge is clearly laid out.
Councillor Bev Middlebrook says there “definitely” should have been communication.
“Considering the partnership and the working relationship we have with them; out of respect we should have definitely gone over that first,” she said.
Councillor Nigel Kitto agreed that communication is key, stating that Funston and RCR understand the increases, but 20 per cent is a large amount.
“A 20 per cent hit in one year, I remember discussing that I thought it was a bit heavy handed at the time,” said Kitto. “I think they are quite willing to pay more and I think the letter spells it out, a 20 per cent hit in any business line is pretty hard to absorb.”
“If Council or the City were the ones who dug the hole in the first place, expecting them to get out of it and get us out of it in one year is not necessarily reasonable,” McCormick added. “We have the same hole with our residential utilities and we are choosing to take five or six years to dig out of that.”
Councillor Kent Goodwin says that 20 per cent isn’t the end of the rate increases, and that there should be more communication going forward.
City CAO Scott Summerville ended the conversation saying that there will be more discussion in future and that they are able to justify the increase. However, he pointed out, the resort has not seen an increase in rates for 14 years, where residential rate increases have steadily gone up during that time.