The city is offering a five-year rural fire protection agreement to the CRD for an annual cost of $534,494.
In October the city forwarded a letter to the CRD stating it supported a five-year agreement based on total taxable assessed values for all property classes in the city and the rural fringe. Their agreement would have an option for five-year renewal.
The CRD went to referendum asking for permission to requisition money from the rural residents based on that formula and received an overwhelming endorsement.
In December, however, after a majority vote of council, the city contacted the CRD to say it was reneging on the agreement and that it wanted to enter into a one-year agreement and enter into discussions for a renewal of fire protection services.
As a result, the CRD filed legal action against the city. A court injunction granted a four-month agreement, that would expire at the end of April.
In March, after both parties agreed to mediation, a one-year agreement was established at a cost of $579,221.
Cook said the newest offer emerged after a four-hour in-camera meeting held April 6 at city hall.
If accepted the new agreement will begin Jan. 1, 2014. It will be based on net residential assessment for operating and capital costs, with an annual $31,500 payment going toward debt servicing costs.
For 2011, the city collected $727,000 for fire protection services from rural residents. The total cost of the service for the city is $2.07 million of which $512,500 is for the loan repayment for the new fire hall.
“We have spent a lot of time on this issue of fire protection,” Cook said, noting if the agreement is accepted it will end the long debate.
Councillors Geoff Bourdon and Danica Hughes noted they did not support the new agreement.
Hughes said she would like to see the city renewing the agreement cost of $579,221, established during mediation process.
Coun. Surinderpal Rathor said while he supported the motion it wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was against the whole thing from day one, but the writing was on the wall,” he said.
Rathor said the new fire hall was built to serve the city and the rural fringe, adding the cost of fire service increased to pay the debt financing. He suggested the city was “bullied” by the CRD.
In the end it was the fear of losing $700,000 that resulted in his voting in favour.
“Yes in December I didn’t support the $556,000 whatever it was back then,” he said. “I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, but I figured either I gain what I can gain or I lose everything. That was the question in front of me.”
Coun. Laurie Walters disagreed with Rathor’s “bullying” comment.
“I didn’t see that from the very beginning. I am very pleased with what’s happened, recognizing that it still has to go to the board for final decision.”
The agreement is “fair,” Walters said.
“The residents in the rural fringe area do work, live and play in Williams Lake and we have a lot of business we do with the CRD. Looking to the future I see all the things we’ve done to date and with new projects working forward.”
It’s a “win, win”, and nobody’s coming out of it on either side without making concessions, Walters added.
Cook expressed thanks to her colleagues that changed their stance so an agreement could be reached.
“This is good news and I’m looking forward to hearing the final decision on Friday,” she said.