What appeared to be an easy solution turned out to open Pandora’s box with a half a million dollar bill attached to and even more questions to be answered according to a Williams Lake City Councillor.
Council agreed this week to defer a project on LED conversion for city-owned facilities and infrastructure to the 2020 budget process, and that staff be directed to seek grant funding toward the project.
“I appreciate the work that staff has done on this and it really gives us an opportunity to start to move towards LED across the City,” said Councillor Scott Nelson.
“But it actually opened up being a bare box and that has to do with BC Hydro and how they charge the municipalities for their electrical rates, for the rental of their poles, and for the costs of the conversion of the lights within our municipality.”
“They literally hold a monopoly over our community and communities across the province because at this point in time they don’t have to convert to LED if they don’t want to,” he continued.
“They really don’t care how it costs us.”
The City according to Nelson spends about two percent of its budget each year to rent BC Hydro’s poles that are then sublet to others including Telus and Shaw.
Director of Municipal Services, Gary Muraca said BC Hydro believes that they may be in the position to begin upgrading their infrastructure in the summer in 2020.
“How that will be scheduled and what the costs will look like for the municipalities remains to be seen,” he said in a report to Council.
“There is no appetite from Hydro to sell the City of Williams Lake their poles as they have 3rd party agreements with others (Telus, Shaw etc) for the use of the poles as well.”
Muraca said to fund the $774,000 project over a two year period to convert City-owned facilities and street lights to LED would require additional estimated 3.3% tax increase from current taxation rates to be maintained in years 2019 and 2020 for all property classes in the City.
“It really opened up a number of key questions in my mind,” Nelson said.
“It’s quite the monopoly they’ve got.”
Mayor Walt Cobb asked if the City did an easement agreement with BC Hydro as they have with pipelines and gas lines in which the City receives funds from.
“We do not have that with Hydro at this point in time,” Nelson said.
“More importantly if it’s costing the City a million and a half dollars in ten years just to rent the poles we need to look at cost recovery, but just as equally as important is we’re trying to save money and there are significant savings by converting to LED. So as the crown corporation is trying to encourage people and encourage municipalities to get people to go to LED, they’re too lazy to even go over and convert their own poles which we have to pay for.”