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Resident wins war over water hookup

Hank Hildebrandt and his neighbours challenged a Township of Langley estimate to connect them to a new municipal water line and won a 40 per cent rollback. Now, some other residents nearby are reconsidering their rejection of the planned service.   - Dan FERGUSON/Black Press
Hank Hildebrandt and his neighbours challenged a Township of Langley estimate to connect them to a new municipal water line and won a 40 per cent rollback. Now, some other residents nearby are reconsidering their rejection of the planned service.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Black Press

When Hank Hildebrandt saw the assessment, he couldn’t believe what the Township of Langley was going to charge him for a new municipal water line.

Hildebrandt, who operates a five-acre farm in the 5300 block of 238 Street, was assessed $42,000 for his share of a connection to the East Langley Water Supply Project, payable in installments over several years.

To actually tie into the water line would cost another $5,000 to $7,000 to install the necessary plumbing and decommission the well he uses.

The Township estimated it would cost around $1.3 million to connect about 30 properties, including the Hildebrandt farm, to the new system.

The property owners were being assessed more than $500 per metre of taxable frontage to cover the projected cost.

“They really tried to hose us,” Hildebrandt told Black Press last week, as he related how he and his neighbours fought and won a battle over the connection cost that dropped the price by a substantial margin.

Hildebrandt obtained several estimates, including a written quote from a Langley civil engineering company, that suggested the line could be built for a lot less money, about a quarter of the quoted price.

He also circulated a petition among residents that called the proposed assessments “grossly overestimated” and urged council to investigate a less expensive installation.”

Ken Kostiuk, one of 25 homeowners who signed the petition, said the cost was way out of line given the soil conditions.

“It’s nothing but sand [which is easy to dig up],” Kostiuk said.

Then the price came down.

An unsigned April 4 memo from the engineering division to mayor and council said the initial estimate of $1.3 million was prepared “before having a design in place” and included “engineering, property costs and contingencies.”

After a competition between three companies, the winning bid to install the water line was $600,000, which engineering boosted by $200,000 to $800,000 to include “some contingency for unforeseen items.”

Based on that, the amount the residents were assessed was cut from $521 to $320 per metre of taxable frontage.

The note takes issue with the lower written bid Hildebrandt obtained, saying it wasn’t clear if the quote included valve fittings, fire hydrants and road work.

“Contract unit rates supplied through a competitive bid process are confidential, but staff can confirm that the unit rates submitted for supplying and installing just 200mm PVC watermain in all three bids are less than what was provided by [the quote obtained by Hildebrandt], which was obtained without the benefit of a competitive bid process,” the memo says.

The cost to Hildebrandt was reduced from $42,000 to $25,000, and his neighbours have seen their assessed costs drop by similar amounts.

“They [the Township] should still back off a whole lot more as far as I’m concerned,” Hildebrandt said.

“I can live with it,” he added, “but I don’t like it.

“It still stinks.”

Kostiuk said he’s since learned that residents of another nearby neighbourhood who voted against connecting to the water line have reconsidered and may be willing to connect if they get the same deal.

The $33.5 million East Langley Water Supply project is the biggest ever undertaken by the Township of Langley’s engineering department, with 14 kilometres of water main and a booster pump station.

- Story by Dan Ferguson

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