Keep 'em separated

Workers install new water lines in 2017 during the Jones Flat and Garnet Valley separation project.

Time may be rolled backwards for the owners of a rural Summerland property that was left out of a major water upgrade project.

Ruby Grymonpre, one of the owners of 27410 Garnet Valley Road, appealed for council’s help Tuesday after arriving at loggerheads with district staff over a $10,200 estimate to install domestic and irrigation water services at the property.

Grymonpre argued the two water services ought to have been installed when the road was dug up for the $7-million Jones Flat and Garnet Valley separation project in 2017 that saw a new domestic water line extended to the northern fringes of the community.

Public works director Kris Johnson told council 27410 Garnet Valley Rd. was left out of the project because the lot was unserviced and therefore needed a hook-up request from the owners to be included.

Grymonpre noted, however, that even though the property is unserviced, she’s been paying an annual fee for irrigation water since 2005 totalling about $10,900.

“It seems absurd that when an individual owns taxable property in a municipality, is registered in a billing system for a service, and pays annually for the utility that she is not automatically included in any upgrades, especially a major federally funded infrastructure project,” she told council by telephone Monday.

“Why would we ever assume that we would be excluded from a project of this magnitude, when our expectations are that, when we are paying for something, we have it available and a right to receive it?”

Johnson explained, however, that the annual fee for irrigation water simply purchases the right to part of the supply, not the water itself, therefore every property on the line pays, regardless of whether the taps are on or not.

That struck Coun. Marty Van Alphen as unfair.

“It’s like saying we’re charging you for hydro, but you don’t have hydro lines to your homes,” said Van Alphen.

Johnson said he’s aware of several other property owners in Summerland who are in the same predicament.

Coun. Doug Holmes suggested the district bears “some responsibility” for Grymonpre being left out of the upgrade project, and had colleagues agree to defer the item for two weeks while staff figures out what the cost to connect the water services would have been in 2017 when Garnet Valley Road was torn up.

Once it has that figure, council will reconsider Grymonpre’s request for a discount on installation of the new water services.

The dispute actually began in February 2018, when a district staffer incorrectly told Grymonpre, who was considering rezoning to allow for farming operations, that there was irrigation service to the property, a mistake that led to the larger questions about inclusion in the upgrade project.