Dear Editor:

When it comes to Jumbo, Invermere Mayor Taft objects to Christy Clarks government appointments to positions that should be elected, but he did not object when he and the other mayors of the Regional District of East Kootenay were appointed to elected positions. A brief background is necessary.

In 1955, the West Fernie Waterworks Improvement District (WFWD) was established under the provincial government. It installed a water distribution system and contracted with the City of Fernie to supply water.

In 1975, having paid for the water system, the WFWD entered into a new contract with the city which terminated the 1955 contract. Under this new contract, for water system fees equal to those paid by Fernie residents, the city agreed to treat the WFWD system as its own.

In 2012 dollars, the city has collected well over $2,000,000, has applied a number of band-aids to small leaks in the aging system, and has asked the regional district and the province to help them take the money and run.

In April 2006, while the Chair of the WFWD Trustees was recovering from an operation on his spine and rescheduled the annual general meeting to just after the May 1st deadline, the province seized the excuse, terminated the WFWD and banned the Chair from holding the meeting or an election of trustees. Later that year, Area A Director Mike Sosnowski told a hearing that the 1975 contract for the water system and the 1979 contract with the city for fire protection and garbage collection were terminated along with the WFWD.

However, each contract contains a clause making them binding in perpetuity, and the city continued billing West Fernie residents according to the terms of the contracts. Since a municipality has no authority outside its boundaries, it is only through legal contracts it can provide services or charge a fee; in continuing to observe the contracts, the city gave tacit recognition to the legal standing of the contracts.

Since January 2011, the Regional District of East Kootenay has held two WFWD annual general meetings and mailed out an information package. They have referred to the 1955 contract for water supply as though it was still in force but have yet to mention the 1975 or 1979 contracts.

The entire infrastructure restructure project proposed for the WFWD is over $18,000,00 in taxpaper money, and WFWD property taxes are expected to double.

Section 751 of the Local Government Act requires an improvement district to create a renewal fund as directed by the Inspector of Municipalities. The WFWD was never so directed because the contract with the city replaced that requirement.

Now, the City of Fernie does not want to give West Fernie residents what they have been paid for, and in my opinion the regional district and the province are helping the city by acting as though the WFWD was never terminated.

At a regional district meeting on April 19th, 2011, they told residents that because the WFWD was faced with challenges with regards to having a group of elected representatives (trustees), the province intervened and appointed the Regional District of East Kootenay Board of Directors as the Trustees for the WFWD.

I agree that five years of termination presents some challenges, but appointing nine mayors, one Cranbrook councillor and six Electoral Area Directors (none of whom are WFWD property owners) to fill the shoes of the legally required trustees who were elected by the property owners in the WFWD looks pretty ludicrous, even for Bill Bennett and Christy Clark.

On May 4th, the regional district directors changed hats after their board meeting and convened a WFWD Trustees meeting at 10:43 a.m. Their concern for the property owners of the WFWD was so great it took them a whole five minutes to re-elect Sosnowski as Chair (because he can get things done), adopt the agenda, adopt the minutes of their February 4th, 2011 meeting, approve the unaudited WFWD Financial Statements for 2011, adjourn the meeting at 10:48 a.m. and head out for an early lunch, shopping and other serious matters.

Peter A. Ross, former Chair of the WFWD

Creston, B.C.