A fair deal for West Fernie

The April 21 The Free Press reported that Area A Director Sosnowski has applied for government grants to assist West Fernie residents in paying for the engineering infrastructure required for an increase in the population density that could provide a tax base able to pay for the services a city is required to provide to residents.

The water system meets the needs of existing residents. Coliform tests show there is no groundwater or river pollution from the septic systems. The Department of Transportation maintains the roads. Government officials permitted developers to create lots too small for septic systems many years ago and the owners should not be further victimised by high costs. A general increase in capacity is only required if there is extensive development and the capital cost of engineering infrastructure is then the responsibility of the developer who recoups his investment and derives profit from real estate sales. If existing residents and other taxpayers pay those capital costs the bottom line of the developers and realtors who enthusiastically support Sosnowski will be dramatically improved. There is more than one way to transfer taxpayer money to the pockets of business owners.

The 1975 legal agreement between the City of Fernie and the residents of West Fernie who built, paid for and own their water system clearly states that in return for paying the same utility fee as City residents they will get the same service as City residents. That fee pays for the City’s capital costs so the City has both a moral and legal obligation to pay West Fernie’s capital costs. The City paid for a legal opinion and was told to try to negotiate their way out. It is tacit recognition that the agreement stands when the City bills West Fernie’s capital costs. The City has the capability to force West Fernie residents to meet the terms of the agreement but the residents cannot force the City in cooperation with the RDEK and the Province to meet their obligations. Asking B.C. governments to be fair is like asking schoolyard bullies to leave the weaker kids alone.

A number of years ago I asked Sosnowski about the agreement. He authoritatively stated that it terminated with the West Fernie Waterworks District. I didn’t know he was a Supreme Court Judge with the authority to terminate legal agreements. Christy Clark just recently discovered she can’t arbitrarily change legal agreements. I thought Sosnowski was a representative elected to fight for the rights of his electorate instead of – well, you know. If the City meets it’s contractual capital cost obligations and works out a system like DCCs to recoup capital costs from developers for all new infrastructure capital costs, the referendum might pass.


Peter Ross