April 2019 Newsletter
Skiing has ended, the fight against high sewage costs has just begun.
The SSPOA recently held three community meetings to gauge the level of support of Silver Star business owners, residents, and vacant lot owners to engage in a fight against the highest utility rates in BC.
Of those who attended, the overwhelming majority supported the establishment of a “Sewage Action Fund” and a united effort to challenge our sewage rates. We will be communicating the composition of the Governance Committee for the fund shortly and as you will see, the community is very fortunate that some very busy people feel passionately enough about this subject to volunteer their time. We will also communicate how you can make your contribution.
Keep an eye out for this communication, you will not want to miss it!
For those of you who may have just started receiving these communications, or could not attend the community meetings, we encourage you to bring yourself up to date with what is happening with our waste water provider. See the full SSPOA brief to government at:
The brief examines several issues and compares Silver Star to other communities and resorts and shows the results of the SSPOA survey that established that Silverhawk collected $1.2 million dollars in 2017 and similar numbers in Capital Upgrade Reimbursement Fund (CURF) Monies. (CURF was levied between 2013 through 2015 on each property to upgrade aspects of the sewage plant. We have questions over what got spent and what it was spent on. See below for more details.)
In response to the Vernon Morning Star press inquiry over the recent community meetings we note:
From the Vernon Morning Star (in print) March 20, 2019
“Susan Huffman, in a letter of response to SSPOA, said Silverhawk “has always calculated its rates as if it were a regulated utility. “Unlike other utilities, we use actual cost and not budgetary costs. This means we are carrying all the costs of operation for an entire year and a half before we are receiving any funds from our clients,” said Huffman, noting that costs are calculated at the end of every calendar year, which then determines rates for the current year.”
For any of you running your own business you will know that this is an extraordinary approach to running a business. Budgeting and projected cash flow are the life blood of small businesses, unless you have so much cash on hand that those disciplines no longer matter.
Addressing the matter of Silverhawk’s comparison to “a regulated utility” we show a graph from a report prepared by Stantec Engineering that was commissioned by the Regional District of North Okanagan in 2014, examining Silverhawk.
From that report:
Figure 21 Canadian National Water & Wastewater Benchmarking Initiative
The letters on the horizontal axis on Figure 21 represent the 30 individual utilities surveyed.
If Silver Star was in the 2013 survey the result would have been: $2084
In 2017 that bill using the same 250m3 of water (with the 15% on time payment discount Silverhawk offers) would be $2254.
Since 2000, Silverhawk has stated the same fact – Silverhawk operates “as if we were a regulated utility”. The SSPOA is saying that with the highest sewage rates in BC, how can this be true?
And yet in Court Documents dated November 7, 2018, Andrew P. Prior, legal counsel for Silverhawk Utilities stated:
“Silverhawk is not a public utility, at common law or otherwise, and is entitled to calculate its rates at its sole discretion.”
Typical use at Silver Star is approximately 100m3 per year due to the seasonal nature of most residences. The table below shows the rate at which the Sewer charges have escalated based on that usage of 100m3 since 2000.
The SSPOA has asked:
How are the Fixed Fee portion of our bills calculated?
How were the $1.2 million dollars collected in 2013-2015 as a “Capital Upgrade Reimbursement Fund” (CURF) used and can you provide a detailed accounting to the ratepayers?
Rate Setting Committee
Where is the Rate Setting Committee that was part of the sales agreement to Silverhawk and further promised in Silverhawk’s March 2001 Newsletter?
“Future rates for sewer services will be set in accordance with typical regulatory criteria, which, among other things requires Silverhawk Utilities to demonstrate the validity of the charges to a Sewer Utility Standing Committee representing the interests of Silver Star residents and developers. The committee will scrutinize the rate model based on proven operating costs, efficiency, comparable rates elsewhere and a reasonable return to the operator.”
In 2009 Silverhawk unilaterally changed the base “Pillow Count” that determines capacity for construction. That change has cost new construction tens of thousands of dollars to purchase additional capacity from Silverhawk. Can you provide the study that you base this change on?
Extra Fixed Fee for Suites
In 2016 Silverhawk started adding an additional fixed fee of $773 for a secondary suite with no notice and no supporting rational, please explain?
The time is now to step up and join your fellow resident and businesses in a united effort to stop these exorbitant rates.
Make sure you look out for the next communication on how you can contribute. It will arrive in your inbox soon! Please pass this information to your neighbours if they have no received this email and encourage them to get on our email list. We encourage all residents of Silver Star to become members of the SSPOA (it’s only $20 annually!), get involved, and be informed.
For more information or if you have questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org