Councillor Malerby made a passionate speech expressing how hard they worked to come up with only 9.17% increase. Council is lucky, they are not on a fixed income as taxpayers pockets are deep. Had they have to survive on a fixed annual income they would have have to find some items to be postponed for later consideration. It takes willpower and dedication to manage other people's money as you would do with your own.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Councillor Malerby made a passionate speech expressing how hard they worked to come up with only 9.17% increase. Council is lucky, they are not on a fixed income as taxpayers pockets are deep. Had they have to survive on a fixed annual income they would have have to find some items to be postponed for later consideration. It takes willpower and dedication to manage other people's money as you would do with your own.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Click on these articles from the Morning Star and enjoy them. Note the problems facing our politicians: increasing taxes and more wishes for facilities.
They reduce the size of some sport facilities, at the same time they want new ones (bike skill park, college site).
They are trying to convince our citizens to take advantage of public transportation and at the same time making it more difficult to access it.
Coldstream and NORD appear to be in competition as to who can increase taxes higher. So far Coldstream is the clear winner.
Perhaps the most interesting fact is that the "less important" issue (water treatment for most of Coldstream and the residents of NORD) is getting further and further away. I wonder how much extra the new Duteau Creek treatment plant will cost with the additional cost of environmental assessment and time delay! Our "experts" should have been aware of this environmental study long before now but they ignored it.
Remember the rhetoric: "The risk of a waterborne-illness outbreak is a serious one...." (click on article on right)? To date the only improvement realized is in the City of Vernon yet we all have been paying higher and higher rates for water since 2002. I guess our politicians recognize what is important and what can be put on the back-burners.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
The Greater Vernon Services Committee has reignited discussions about future sports fields, including during a closed-door session Thursday. “We have a couple of things we are discussing but nothing of the magnitude of the previous one,” said Gary Corner, GVSC chairman.
GVSC had originally proposed constructing a sports complex on a portion of Coldstream Ranch on Aberdeen Road. However, a December referendum resulted in a majority of residents preventing Coldstream council from sending a land use application to the Agricultural Land Commission. The concerns of residents varied, but the primary one was using quality farm land for sports fields, and that could lead to traffic problems and increased urbanization.Corner was unwilling to get into the specifics of the current discussions.“It may be one large site or a few around the community,” he said.
Corner added, though, that an outstanding issue is finding large chunks of property not in the Agricultural Land Reserve. One site that has been suggested by some residents is farm land just to the north of the Multiplex and Kin Race Track.
Earlier this month, the City of Vernon requested that GVSC hold a meeting with it to discuss sports facilities in the area. No date has been set for that meeting, but Corner is open to pursuing the matter with the city. “We will certainly talk to the city and the city has three representatives at this committee,” he said. Vernon city council will also meet internally to discuss land issues regarding potential sites for new fields.
Hopefully, this time they might take into consideration input from the general taxpayer who will ultimately pay for the play.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Assoc. Prof. Joerg Bohlmann says this genetic analysis will allow forest stewardship programs to reinforce a forest’s inherent strength, breeding trees that could in time repel insects such as British Columbia’s notorious mountain pine beetles.
Bohlmann and his research associate Christopher Keeling explored the genetic makeup of oleoresin within spruce, discovering a sophisticated ability to produce complex blends of chemicals that continuously evolve to protect the tree from changing conditions and challenges.
“Conifers are some of the oldest and longest living plants on the planet,” says Bohlmann. “We’ve opened the book to understanding how they can survive in one location for thousands of years despite attacks from generations of insects and diseases.”
Their study examines the molecular biochemistry of conifers interacting with genomes of bark beetles and bark beetle-associated fungal pathogens. Bohlmann’s study appears in today’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Figuring out how these naturally occurring defenses work has important implications for the long-term sustainability and health of our forests,” says Bohlmann, who’s working with the B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, the forestry industry and the Canadian Forest Service.
Bohlmann is also co-leader of the recently announced $4-million project that Genome BC and Genome Alberta is funding to investigate the mountain pine beetle infestation at the genomic level.
Insect pests and pathogens cause annual losses of billions of dollars to conifer-based forest economies in North America and Europe. In B.C., the mountain pine beetle epidemic has killed about 40 per cent of the pine forests since its first appearance in the mid 1990s.
This is the largest recorded bark beetle outbreak in Canada, leaving B.C. with 13 million hectares of grey and red dead pine – an area four times the size of Vancouver Island and a volume of dead timber equivalent to 530 million telephone poles.
Bohlmann is leading UBC’s and international research programs on forest health genomics. In 2006, Bohlmann and a team of international scientists completed the world’s first physical map and sequencing of a tree genome – the third plant ever sequenced.
He is based at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, a multidisciplinary research facility. Bohlmann also holds teaching appointments in the departments of Botany and Forest Sciences and is an associate at UBC’s Wine Research Centre.
Bohlmann and study co-authors are members of the Treenomix project, Canada’s first large-scale forestry genome project. Their work received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Genome BC and Genome Canada.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Bryant Gronemeyer, 12, has gone from critical to fair condition at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“His vital signs are stable and in normal limits,” said Lubna Ekramoddoullah, a communications specialist with the hospital.
He has also resumed consciousness.
“The indicators are favourable. His doctor says he is continuously improving,” said Ekramoddoullah.
Gronemeyer, a Grade 7 student from Harwood Elementary, was injured while taking part in a school field trip to Silver Star Mountain Resort Jan. 17.
He was preparing to get off the midway station on the Summit chairlift when his helmet strap got caught on the chairlift. That resulted in some choking occurring.
Gronemeyer was treated on the mountain, transported by ambulance to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and then transferred to Vancouver.
Ekramoddoullah believes Gronemeyer’s parents are handling the situation as well as can be expected.
“They are doing much better because of the improved conditions,” she said.
Silver Star and the B.C. Safety Authority are investigating the accident, as is the Vernon School District’s insurance firm.
The Summit chairlift is open but the midway station is closed during the investigation.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Pine beetle wood will soon be used to generate heat and electricity for several buildings in Prince George.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments have announced plans for the community biomass energy system.
Work begins on the biomass burner this spring and it's expected to be in operation by 2009.
The annual cost is estimated at 305-thousand dollars but the program will generate gross revenues of about 685-thousand dollars a year.
Future I-C-B-C rate increases may have a lot to do with where you live and what you drive.
I-C-B-C spokesman Doug McClelland says the insurance corporation now has permission to set variable rates as much as six per cent above or below the provincial average.
McClelland says the variable rates would cover risks posed by certain types of vehicles, such as motorcycles, or certain regions of the province -- such as rapidly growing suburban areas where more cars translate to more crashes.
Starting May 1st, I-C-B-C will also charge 25 dollars to list additional drivers on a vehicle's insurance, but the fee only applies if the secondary driver does not own a vehicle and has less experience or a worse driving record than the main driver.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
In addition to tax increases we must look at increases in fees. We don't know yet the magnitude of water rate increases but we probably get a 5% increase. That present will come from Greater Vernon Water (of which our Mayor is chair).
The sewer increase is well documented in the budget. Since we had "too much money" in the sewer reserve previous Council graciously relieved us of the burden to the tune of $667,060 leaving a meager reserve of $92,417. These funds helped out the developers of Coldstream Meadows so that they would have a lighter load when connecting to the sewer system.
In the late 1990's Trintec Enterprises developed a subdivision off Sarsons Road (Inverness Drive). The entire cost of extending the sewer system to 15th Street, constructing a holding storage and lift stations was the responsibility of the developer. Why were the requirements for this development different?
This year an additional sum of $264,000 was spent to further lighten the load of Coldstream Meadows by buying out the latecomer fees. Nice gesture! Who pays for this gesture? We, sewer customers do.
The consequences are showing up in the present sewer budget. The rich customers of the existing sewer system will now pay 5.2% ($568 compared to last year's $540) more than last year for their sewer fees.
Those residents along the route of the new sewer line are also unhappy with the additional annual tax load of $97 just for the privilege of residing along the line even though they don't have to connect. They should be happy, at least they are not burdened with the $568 user fee. Incidentally, those taxes are parcel taxes. When Council deliberated on financing options for the Fire Halls they decided that parcel taxes were unfair and opted for using the general taxation option based on property values. Why is it unfair for the Fire Hall but fair for the sewer line?
As the Director of Finance said: "To date ... the District has not received any letters of opposition to the budget therefore it is anticipated to be adopted in its original form." If everyone is happy with the tax and fee increases then no action is necessary. However, if you feel that a nearly 10% tax increase and escalating fee increases are not helping your personal budget then you should let Council know about it! You can only be heard if you speak up!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Interesting discussions in Vernon Council. The January 26th referendum is still pending yet Council is discussing another potential major expenditure. We must be loaded with money to find all sorts of "needed projects" on which to spend taxpayers money on the brink of a recession. If they find a place to put the complex we would be on the hook for nearly 20% of the costs (or perhaps even more depending on the future of GVSC). Things are humming!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
One by one valley municipalities have joined the proposed initiative seeks to establish a system for mobile businesses to obtain one licence valid throughout the valley, instead of having one for each individual jurisdiction.
The Village of Lumby gave the green light to a valley-wide licence for mobile businesses that allows the village to participate in the program that covers communities throughout the Okanagan, as well as the Shuswap and Similkameen.
Mayor Eric Foster believes the new program is just a simple expansion of an ongoing program that the village had been part of already.
“We’ve had it in the North Okanagan for two years,” he said.
For an extra $100, North Okanagan businesses have been able to get a licence for Armstrong, Coldstream Enderby, Lumby, Vernon, Spallumcheen and Salmon Arm.
The new valley-wide project would be similar. For $150 a business could gain access to all of those market areas plus the Central Okanagan Regional District, Lake Country, Osoyoos, Kelowna, Peachland, Keremeos, Oliver, Penticton, Princeton and Summerland.
Most recently, Vernon’s mayor Wayne Lippert presented information on the single business license. After his presentation, the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously passed a motion supporting the establishment of a single business license for mobile businesses.
The chamber believes the creation of a single business license will have a positive impact on the economy of Vernon, and will still preserve the City’s ability to regulate business activity within their jurisdiction.
Foster told media that he is not concerned a single business licence will allow large Kelowna-based contractors to pursue projects in Lumby and take away work from local residents.
“For those big outfits, what difference does it make if they have to buy a $150 licence?” he said.
“I have never heard anyone say they won’t come to Lumby to paint houses because they have to pay for a licence.”
The new valley-wide program is for a one-year trial period. “At the end of that year, if it’s not working the way it’s supposed to, change it,” said, Foster.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Visitors to Vernon Jubilee Hospital are being asked to either stay away or take precautions upon visiting patients following an outbreak of the Norwalk Virus.
Peter du Toit, Interior Health’s Health Services Administrator for North Okanagan, said the virus hit on the hospital’s medical wards.
“It started with an outbreak of gastro symptoms at the end of last week,” said du Toit Friday morning. “On Thursday, we had 12 patients and 10 staff that were impacted. We put the patients with the symptoms together to help prevent a spread of the virus.”
Visitors to the hospital are greeted with a sign right in the front lobby, explaining that an outbreak of vomiting and diarhhea has occurred, and people are being discouraged to visit patients at this time.
If you do go to see someone in the hospital, you’re encouraged to wash your hands before and after the visit, or after making contact with a patient.
The hospital is monitoring the situation on an hour-to-hour basis.
“The staff and everyone at the hospital is doing a great job to make sure the virus doesn’t get out of hand,” said du Toit. “The Norovirus is extremely contagious.”
Medical information from a website says the Norwalk virus is a common cause of vomiting and diarhhea in winter, and is often called the stomach flu.
The Norovirus group causes viral gastroenteritis predominantly during the winter in temperate climates.
Outbreaks of Norwalk virus usually occur in schools, nursing homes or in group settings, such as banquet halls and cruise ships.
A Norwalk virus infection usually results in illness 24-to-48 hours after exposure, and symptoms last from 12-to-48 hours. The illness is characterized by the quick onset of vomiting and diarrhea. Abdominal cramps are common, and many patients report headache, nausea, and low-grade fever.
Norwalk virus infection is more frequent in older children and adults than in infants and toddlers.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The urgent, last minute decision by the outgoing Council in 2005 of awarding a contract to construct a sewer main extension from McClounie Road to Aberdeen Road has major ramifications for those of us in SSA1. The reason is as follows:
Council reasoned (oxymoron?) that since the original sewer customers only had to pay 7% of the total costs any future sewer customers should pay the same rate for establishing their system. That would have been fine if they also waited for grants from senior governments for the project but they were in too much of a hurry. One might wonder what the urgency was (Coldstream Meadows come to mind, future reduced connection costs to some Council members as well). Nevertheless, they decided that 93% of the funding for the project should come from SSA1 customers and confiscated $665,000 from the sewer reserves and a further $265,000 from the sewer operating funds. I will discuss these issues at length later but I just want to inform sewer customers how gravely this decision will affect them now and in the future if they are not going to fight this decision.
If Council demonstrated urgent need for extending the sewer line at that time they could have convinced senior governments to participate. In fact, they would still be eligible for the Okanagan Basin Waterboard’s 18% grant, as we have been taxed by the OBW for decades for that grant. I understand even the City neglected to claim that grant by oversight (personal communications).
Council is embarking on major extensions of the sewer system. They will try to convince and/or force new customers to hook into these new extensions. However, the precedence was set that all new customers will only have to pay 7% of the costs. Who will pay the rest? You guessed it! It will be US, SA1 customers. Our sewer rates will skyrocket. Is this fair? Of course not! What can we do about it? We must fight it every way we can.
By law Council was supposed to follow certain rules and regulations (designate a specified area for the sewer extension, public hearings, agreement from potential new customers, identifying costs and designating who will pay, timelines etc.). They should have done a pre-design study to identify if there is a real urgency. They have not done that. In fact, they just commissioned a $35,000 study to try to rectify the omission. Mayor Corner implied:
“The one study will TRY (?) and determine the cost of servicing areas to the north and south of the 2006 sewer extension, including Whetzell, Bonavista and DeJong drives. ‘We want to know exactly how to do it,’ said Corner of the possible expansion of the sewer system and the cost. (MS, October 7.) ”
That should have been done before the project started!
Council argued that previous Councils had commissioned and completed a Wastewater Management Plan in 1994. What they neglected to ad is that this study was done to investigate the feasibility of constructing Coldstream’s own sewage treatment plant. Sewage would have been flowing from west to east, treated and disposed on designated lands in Coldstream. It was abandoned and Coldstream continued to send sewage to Vernon. What is the difference? Lots!
Greg Betts, Clerk/Administrator of Coldstream provided a report examining the consequences of continuing to send effluent from the District to the City, a flow from east to west. His report stated the following:
“If the district intends to maintain the current system of sending all effluent from the District to the City via the existing collection mains, prior to reaching the full development of Middleton Mountain, expenditures in the order of $2 million will be required to upgrade the existing mains. In addition, there will be costs to upgrade the transition main beyond the District’s boundary to the City of Vernon plant. A request has been sent to the city to confirm the order of magnitude of these costs; however, this information has not yet been received.”
This huge problem should have also been addressed before the sewer main extension was carried out.
Now that Council has dangerously depleted the sewer reserves and dipped deeply into our operating funds as well they are eager to replenish the treasury at our expense. The proposed budget set the new sewer rate at $568 per year, 29% more than my calculated reasonable rate should be ($440 per year).
I am presently in contact with officials in Victoria to try to get some resolution of the matter. However, it might be that a court action might be necessary. The long term consequences of Council’s action would be huge cost increases for sewer customers. This is not fair and a remedy must be sought wherever possible. It is your money!
Friday, January 11, 2008
OF THE DISTRICT OF COLDSTREAM
TO BE HELD ON MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2008
IN THE MUNICIPAL HALL COUNCIL CHAMBERS
9901 KALAMALKA ROAD, COLDSTREAM, BC
AT 7:00 PM
A G E N D A (partial) (full agenda)
a. Kalamalka Road WW2 Memorial Ginnala Maple Trees
Mr. Fred Wilson may be in attendance to speak to this matter.
b. Comments on the 2008 Proposed Budget
Mr. Gyula Kiss will be in attendance to speak to this matter.
2. PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS COUNCIL
(Total Time Allotted: 10 Minutes)
address issues on the agenda dated, January 14, 2008. Issues that are not on the current agenda will not be heard by Council. If you have items to address that are not contained in this agenda, please contact the Municipal Clerk to make a formal request to appear as a
delegation at a future meeting of Council.
Just to tickle your interest I present two documents. The one on the left of the "Cash Cow" was presented at the budget open house in the Municipal Hall on January 7th. It shows the "fixed costs" for the sewer as envisioned by the Director of Finance, a whopping $612,817. A generous $150,000 reserve (about 25% of the "Total Fixed Costs) was added to the total bringing it to $762,817.
Upon reviewing said document I found that ($266,654) was included that was part of the "treatment and disposal bill" the City of Vernon submits to Coldstream. That has nothing to do with fixed Coldstream costs. Removing that sum brings the Total Fixed Costs to $341,100, 25% of which ($82,275) is added as reserve. This is how I arrived at the Base Costs of $423,375.
Using the number of connections (2012) the annual fixed cost per connection (or customer!) is calculated as $210 or quarterly $53.
The City of Vernon submits a bill to Coldstream quarterly. The annual bill from the City for 2008 is estimated at $460,000 (give or take). This figure divided by 2012 is $230 in round figures ($57.50 per quarter).
The base cost of $423,375 plus the treatment and disposal cost of $460,000 totals $883,375. Based on these figures the flat sewer rate for 2008 should be $440 annually or $110 quarterly.
Compare this figure to that proposed by the Director of Finance ($568) and you'll see why Coldstream's sewer customers are considered to be "Cash Cows". Council wants to replenish the Sewer Reserve Fund and we are the best subjects for the project.
The North Okanagan Regional District’s five electoral areas have written a letter to the media expressing concerns about the government-initiated process and the negative impact they believe it could have on communities.
“We have a responsibility to our residents and to the regional board. We need to advise them of what’s going on,” said Herman Halvorson, rural Enderby director, of the decision to issue a letter to the media and the public.
In the letter the five directors claim that a valley-wide change in governance structure could decrease representation for rural areas.
“Specifically, decisions would be made at a centralized level without the appropriate opportunity to fully consider the needs, goals, services and community values of our rural residents, and representatives of urban areas could control the votes,” states the letter.
“We have grave concerns that the governance review currently underway does not provide, in our opinion, for complete and comprehensive public consultation and also, that the province has imposed a timeline that does not allow for meaningful public consultation.”
The directors are also calling for residents to vote on any potential governance changes.
Cliff Kanester, BX-Swan Lake director, believes all residents should take an interest in the current process.
“If we don’t, this thing will be jammed down our throats,” he said.
The governance options vary, but include having one single regional district in the Okanagan or rural areas being annexed into municipalities. Not on the table is maintaining three regional districts as occurs now.
“The provincial government says status quo is not an option but we believe it is an option,” said Halvorson.
NORD’s chairman is disappointed that the electoral directors have issued a letter to the media.
“It’s premature,” said Jerry Oglow, who sits on the committee looking at governance.
“We are only starting the consultation process with elected officials. They are also losing sight of opportunities to deliver a higher level of service that we’ve yet to discuss.”
Oglow also points out that the electoral directors have suggested their areas should form a single municipality or multiple municipalities.
“This (process) could be an opportunity to put this on the table,” he said.
While no public input meetings will be held, Oglow insists the review committee wants to hear from residents.
“We are receiving letters from interested individuals and we will have a Web site set up,” he said.
Politicians from across the Okanagan will meet at the Best Western Vernon Lodge today at 9 a.m. to discuss the governance review.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Thanks to Don Quixote!
The Blunder of 2007 Title was a close contest but after an exhaustive tabulation of votes our Bean Counters and lawyers Dewy, Cheetum and Howe have certified that Coldstream Council has received 75% of the ballots cast and win the Prestigious Dumb as a Dodo Political Blunder Trophy for 2007 for their perseverance in having a referendum on the Non Farm use of ALR Land.
In second place with a 69% rating for their counter petition ploy for the Library/Civic Centre was the Vernon City Council.
The Bronze medal for third Place goes to NORD for their higher than cost of living pay raises who received a 42% rating.
Technically Vernon City Council with their Residential Tax increase and Business tax decrease did receive a 45% rating and was higher than the NORD blunder but the strict rules of the competition do not allow any Council to win more than 1 medal so as to save Political face and embarrassment.
Posted by Don Quixote at 1/08/2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
Sunday, January 6, 2008
If you have money to burn you do not need to appear. However, if you value your hard earned money, come and make your views heard!
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Mayor Corner’s comments in his year end interview by Jennifer Smith deserve some in-depth rebuke. The Mayor is quoted:
“...all the debate around the once proposed sports complex on Aberdeen Road is a sign of a healthy, democratic community, says Mayor Gary Corner.”That sounds almost to be true. However, we remember the attempt by Mayor Corner to have an end-run around Council and the entire community of Coldstream by authorizing a letter to the ALC (Land Commission) requesting permission for the alternate use of the land in question (click on letter). That does not sound very democratic to me. I am sure I am not the only one thinking that way.
That did not suit the Mayor and he brought the issue back within the month (which was his legal prerogative). By this time one Councillor changed her mind and decided to opt for a referendum. The reason offered for this flip flop was a petition presented by the "yes" side and included such names as Dr Suzuki of the Suzuki Foundation (ironically, the signer did not know the correct spelling). The Councillor insisted that she compared the names to the Voters’ List (turned out we have no voters’ list) and found around 600 legitimate names. Was this a real democratic process?
Water appears to be a reluctant subject for the Mayor, understandably so. He states: “The plan always was to upgrade that plant (Duteau Creek) sometime”.
Furthermore, the second MWP (presumably developed by lesser water engineering minds most of whom have already gone to greener pastures) produced a plan that was used to browbeat taxpayers to vote for the borrowing of $35 million. This plan detailed where these funds were to be expended complete with timelines. According to those timelines (click on image on right) that plant should have been completed by 2006 and should be providing second rate treated water to the former VID customers. This “We’ll hopefully start construction this winter” is a poor excuse and instead of boasting, major apologies should be in order. Mayor Corner, a major promoter of the plan and present Chair of GVS, and the rest of the proponents have never accepted any responsibilities for misleading the public and not delivering the goods.
Note that the sale pitch set the cost of the DC plant at $16 million (not $19 million). There was no mention of it being a “basic plan”. Let’s not invent terms not used in the sales pitch. Today’s projected cost of $28.6 million is almost 80 percent higher. The buck should stop with the politicians but it seems like the only buck that stops there is the buck that comes from us (300% wage increase! NORD increased the base salary for the eight municipal directors from $1,523 to $6,240 a year).
One more tidbit: there is no plan in place yet to improve the water for customers residing on the west side of Swan Lake. Should the Chair of GVS not address that issue?
“Corner says the delay is not a result of politicians.” ‘They just think we’re dragging our heels but we’re moving as fast as we can.”
Not so. GVS has been debating the governance issue ad nauseam spending countless staff and politicians time, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars, without resolving those issues to date. Resolving the water problem after Vernon got everything they hoped for seemed to be a secondary or even tertiary issue. If this is the speed they can generate when they are “moving as fast as they can” I would hate to see them dragging their feet. The 300% wage increase was a reward for ineptitude.
I grant the Mayor that the Centennial Park development was a positive move that we all appreciate.
Unfortunately, the sewer issue is another stinker (pun intended). It seems the Mayor and his cohorts believe that those sewer customers who led the way in environmental protection by paying for the “Specified Area 1" sewer system should now foot the bill for the sewering of the rest of Coldstream. To this end they confiscated a total of nearly $900,000 of the funds (unwillingly) accumulated by those sewer customers to extend the sewer line from McClounie to Aberdeen Road so a favourite son could have a shorter connection line to carry out his multi million development. I will elaborate on this issue in future reports. Suffice to say that an audit was requested by this writer and awaiting the results of that audit.
It is interesting that the Mayor and Council admitted their error by belatedly initiating an environmental assessment two years after they awarded the contract for the sewer line extension. Results of this environmental assessment will be suspect as the major pollutants are farms in the upper reaches of Coldstream Creek but it may give Council a belated excuse for the sewer extension.
I am not opposing sewer extension if it is warranted, however, I am adamantly opposed to the idea that the present sewer customers should fund the sewer projects for the rest of Coldstream.
But all the debate around the once proposed sports complex on Aberdeen Road is a sign of a healthy, democratic community, says Mayor Gary Corner.
“It’s just like anything else, anytime you hold a referendum there’s always differing opinions, that’s democracy.”
Even the district’s own politicians have been split over this issue and many other issues. But, again, Corner says there’s nothing wrong with a council that well-represents its community.
“We have a council that has differing opinions and that’s fine, that’s what a council is supposed to be all about.
“I think we work really well together.”
That could all change next year with the municipal election, which Corner will not say whether he will be running in again.
While Corner is disappointed with the loss of the sports complex opportunity this year, Coldstream still has a pair of key projects to look forward to in 2008.
Both the Coldstream and Lavington Fire Departments will be able to move into new halls this year.
The Lavington hall is being built on the existing site and the Coldstream hall is under construction near the existing hall on Aberdeen Road, next to the public works yard.
“Hopefully they’ll both be done by late spring,” said Corner.
Another service residents can look forward to is water that looks, well, like water.
The Duteau Creek water treatment plant has long been on the books, but construction is anticipated soon.
“The plan always was to upgrade that plant at sometime,” said Corner, who is also Greater Vernon Services Committee chairman. “We’ll hopefully start construction this winter.”
The new treatment plant has been a sore spot for some residents, who have seen prices skyrocket from the original $19 million to the newest price tag of $28.6 million.
But those original cost estimates were on a basic plan, says Corner, and since the plan has been enhanced the project has also received a $13.8 million grant from senior government.
Residents have also been tapping their fingers waiting for the project to evolve.
Corner says the delay is not a result of politicians.
“They just think we’re dragging our heels but we’re moving as fast as we can.”
The start of construction work has been pushed back because of the federal government’s requirement for an environmental assessment.
It’s hoped that construction can still be completed by early 2009, with it fully operational in April of that year.
One service residents have been able to enjoy this past year is the new Centennial Park at the Sovereign House.
While the park still needs a few touches for completion, it offers residents beach access, park space and access to a historically prominent site.
Sewer extensions are also on the books for the future. The next phase of sewer is to continue off the line installed in 2006. It would continue up Giles Drive and head towards Coldstream Creek.
A recent environmental study has shown that septic tanks are having a negative environmental effect in that area. The district has applied for grants to do the design for the sewer line and is crossing its fingers awaiting a response.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that taxes are required to provide the services and programs we all demand as residents. But a nine per cent hike in Coldstream is enough to choke a horse.
Of course, officials will lay part of the blame for the increase at the feet of residents and that is fine.
Those of us who voted in 2006 to fund construction of two new fire halls knew it would lead to an increase in taxes. And I can live with that, knowing that emergency services are going to be enhanced.
But with district officials knowing there would be a four per cent hit right off the top for fire halls, why wasn’t there a collective effort to tighten up the rest of the budget? I don’t know how things work in your house, but at mine, some things have to give if there’s a major expense that can’t be avoided.
Obviously municipal staff think all of their projects are vital when they submit items to council for consideration, so the tough job of deciding what stays and what goes is up to the politicians.
Council in Vernon is also going through a budget process, but unlike Coldstream, it is looking at ways of trimming a proposed 5.07 per cent hike in taxes.
“Staff brought it forward and it’s our job to look at the priorities and where to cut,” said Jack Gilroy, a city councillor.
And that’s the way it should be. Staff presents information on what could be addressed for the coming year, and the politicians call the shots. No where in provincial legislation does it say that politicians have to automatically rubber-stamp staff recommendations.
They are allowed to think for themselves. It is also important for Coldstream council not to look at finances in isolation. Granted it is only responsible for the municipal portion of the tax bill, but property owners are responsible for it, Okanagan Regional Library, North Okanagan Regional District, school board and health care. If all of those jurisdictions increase their requisition (and who has ever heard of taxes going down?), the cumulative impact on an individual taxpayer is significant.
On top of this, all properties have seen their assessments climb and that can also have an effect on the bottom line.
There’s also the nickel-and-diming jurisdictions pursue through various fees, including the doubling of some levies related to the cemetery.
Residents may get the impression that the 2008 budget is written in stone, but it’s not.
Provincial legislation doesn’t require municipalities to adopt financial plans until May so there is plenty of time for council and district staff to go back to the drawing board and see if changes can be made.
And not cutting just for the sake of cutting or reducing the limited services available in Coldstream, but scrutinizing the budget and realistically deciding if any expenditures can be deferred.
But for changes to occur, residents may need to apply some pressure to council, either by phoning all seven members directly, or attending a budget open house at the municipal office Jan. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Ultimately, taxes are a fact of life and none of us can avoid them.
But our elected officials and bureaucrats, who benefit financially off those same taxes, should realize that their job is to provide some balance and not force us into the poor house.
In a spirit of emphasizing the positive I decided to present those events in a positive perspective, always highlighting the positive. Some of these positive successes are following.
Mayor Corner succeeded in turning Coldstream residents against each other during a referendum campaign. Ultimately the referendum resulted in a great success for the ratepayers of Coldstream. It was a sound reaffirmation of the values we place on our agricultural land.
Politicians succeeded in further increasing our water rates to $.76/cu m from $.72/cu m. At the same time they successfully maintained the same quality water for everyone but Vernon customers as we enjoyed when water was sold at $.35/cu m. We keep paying more and enjoying it less!
Another success story associated with water is that one of these days we might have a new water treatment plant at Duteau Creek. The positive here is that even after the plant is operational the resulting water quality will be still inferior to the water supply from Kal Lake. In fact, customers residing on West Swan Lake properties will enjoy the excellent quality water from Goose Lake for some time longer. No firm plan is in place yet to resolve the water quality issues there. (At this time it’s worth contemplating what happened to the many millions of dollars Greater Vernon Water collected since 2002. They only borrowed $13 million to date which would require an annual repayment of about $1 million from 2006 on. Where did the rest go?!).
Sewer customers in Coldstream were successful in losing $625,000 from their Sewer Reserve Fund for extending the sewer trunk line from McClounie to Aberdeen Road. In addition they successfully parted with an additional $264,000 from their sewer operating fund for purchasing the latecomer fees from Coldstream Meadows. Of course, the greatest success was achieved by the owners of Coldstream Meadows as they received a brand new sewer connection for peanuts. This success resulted in great savings for prospective customers as they can now purchase bungalows at the development anywhere from a mere $279,000 to a reasonable $495,000. Further elucidation of these sewer success stories will follow in subsequent articles.
Council successfully ignored repeated request to modernize sewer rates. They believe that it is fair that a single person on sewer should pay the same $540 (soon to be increased to $568) as a family of five or six. Since five of the seven Councillors are not affected by sewer rates this success will leave them unaffected.
Greater Vernon Services succeeded in establishing a totally dysfunctional organization under the leadership of Chair Corner. The whole governance issue is in shambles and participants want to get out of various functions. This great achievement was recognized by NORD and rewarded by huge wage increases for municipal Directors (about 300% increases). At least we know that our significant contribution to NORD is spent wisely (an average home in Coldstream valued at $400,458 contributes $572 in taxes to NORD).
I am sure we could come up with even more success stories but for now this will suffice. Next we will examine future potential successes, such as the near 10% potential tax increases and other delectable items. For now I say good night and hope that you will enjoy your first working day of 2008. Don’t forget to date your cheques properly when you pay your fees at the Municipal Hall!
Coldstream Ratepayers News! All Coldstream residents are ratepayers!
The opinions expressed by "Coldstreamer" are strictly his own and do not represent the opinions of Coldstream Council!
Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to this discussion. Don't be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters, however, and I may even delete off-topic comments.
- I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.