By ROY WOOD
One of the two water councillors in Osoyoos has been punted from town council for lack of attendance and, at the same time, council has begun a process that may eliminate the position altogether.
Kuldeep Dhaliwal was elected water councillor by acclamation last fall along with Claude Moreira.
In a report to council today, corporate officer Janette Van Vianen said Dhaliwal was warned in January about his poor attendance and the responsibilities of councillors.
“The Community Charter requires council members to attend meetings regularly. If a council member is absent from council meetings for a period of 60 days or four consecutive … meetings, (whichever is longer) they are disqualified from holding office,” Van Vianen said.
Water councillors are required to attend just one meeting a month. Dhaliwal missed meetings in March, April, May and June. He has therefore been disqualified.
Provincial legislation requires there be a byelection to refill the position. Van Vianen said the vote will be held in September.
The position of water councillor was created by the province in 1989, when the Southern Okanagan Lands Irrigation District was dissolved and responsibility for supplying water in the area was transferred to the towns of Osoyoos and Oliver.
The idea was that water users who live outside town limits should have representation on the two town councils. There are two water councillor positions on each of Oliver and Osoyoos town councils.
Water councillors are allowed to vote only on matters directed related to water services. In Osoyoos, the annual stipend is about $5,000.
In her report, Van Vianen pointed out that the provincial order-in-council that created the water councillors “is outdated in every way including reference to the Municipal Act where we are now governed by the Community Charter and Local Government Act.”
Taking a wide view of the future of the water councillor issue, Van Vianen proposed five options ranging from simply asking the province to update the order-in-council to seeking a new relationship with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) related to water matters.
Council agreed to the broader option, instructing staff to send a letter to the RDOS asking it to consider creating “a service area for water district users … (similar to) the northwest sector sewer service that is currently provided through an extraterritorial service bylaw.”
Under such an arrangement, “the town would bill for water in the regional water district and the users in the area will have representation through (RDOS) Area A director.”
Chief Administrative Officer Barry Romanko said it is unclear whether the RDOS would even go along with the idea or how long such a process might take. It would require provincial approval.
If it were to come to pass, there would be negotiations with the regional district on several issues, including how the district would be represented at Osoyoos council.
Councillor Jim King suggested council pass a resolution regarding the negotiations with the RDOS, but without mentioning the water councillors.
Van Vianen pointed out that eliminating water councillor was one of the central reasons for the whole proposal.
Water Councillor Moreira was the sole dissenting vote. “I can’t support any of these options,” he said. “The rural area needs representation.”
In an interview, Moreira said, “The farmers built the water system and gave it to the town. Now they want to take away the representation.”