Monday, November 1, 2010

Letters to the Editor -- Morning Star News

The following letter appeared in the Morning Star on October 31, 2010:

Water bill stirs up issues


Dear Coldstream officials. If I thought I might be successful by legally disputing the water bill I just received, I would withhold payment and do just that, but I am sure you have figured out how to legally milk your constituents before you raised the already high rates. I have enclosed payment in full so that you do not charge unfair interest on your already unfair charges.

I suggest you should consider, that you do not own the water flowing through theses pipes, but rather, provide a delivery service (like the gas people do) and yes, sometimes condition the water to a state where it is acceptable for drinking and showering (sometimes, although not reliably in recent history). With that perspective, I'm sure you would agree that the service you provide is worth but a fraction of the charge.

If water was a privately-managed service, there would be fair competition and pricing would be much lower. Private companies would not be allowed to "double dip." The water I use on my lawn flows back into Coldstream Creek and down to Kalamalka Lake, where you suck it up again and charge the rest of city residents. Water is a renewable resource and the lakes are full of it. This whole scarcity theme you promote is a self-serving methodology to attempt to justify huge charges.

As for the balance of services you purport to supply, such as fire protection, I will again remind you (as I do nearly every year) that I do not have a fire hydrant within 1,000 metres of my residence. The house has been there for 35 years, but I'm sure you'll get to it sometime. Meanwhile, as I am in a forest interface area, I will continue to sprinkle my lawns to keep the fire hazard down. Unfortunately, at your inflated water rates, I will probably not be able to keep up the practice.

Your inability to provide adequate water services has forced my family to pack water jugs from grocery stores for drinking and has cost me several hundred dollars per year in extra fire insurance charge, yet somehow you think you deserve a raise in pay for the water you do supply.

I do sympathize with council, though. I know you have had the unforeseen costs in water management and infrastructure. It's a shame you spent all your reserved funds on a new municipal hall a few years back (after we'd voted no on doing so). If that money hadn't been spent, perhaps you would have seen clear to reduce taxation during the current economic depression, knowing that many people are struggling just to keep their homes.

So please accept my $500 quarterly water payment and know that you have helped me immensely with my decision on the next municipal election. I will be voting for a wholesale change in leadership.

Geoff Wight

My personal response to Geoff Wight:

Thank you for your comments on your water bill. I was not thrilled with mine either: it amounted to $445. I accepted it since the costs are the consequence of the 2004 referendum for the borrowing of $35 million for water quality improvements and approved by the majority of voters.

Coldstream is not the manager of the utility: it is owned and operated by the Greater Vernon Water Utility through NORD. NORD directors ultimately set the rates.

The utility actually owns the water through water licenses granted by the Province. It’s not any different than the oil companies owning the oil the Province licensed to them or the timber companies owning timber licensed to them.

In order for you to receive acceptable quality drinking water much has to be done, including but not restricted to building a distribution system, treating the water and maintaining the system. There might be some adjustment to pricing but the total costs are in the ball-park.

As for privately managed water service: let me just point to the water you purchase in bottles and compare those prices to the prices you pay for your water service. There is no comparison. Private companies must make a profit, local governments are not allowed to.

If your irrigation water flows back to Coldstream Creek than you are using way too much water and that is part of the reason for your high water bill. If you don’t believe there is the risk of shortages, I am sure I cannot convince you. Some people believe all of our resources are limitless. I know it is not so.

Fire hydrants are installed annually but we cannot do them all at once. I am not sure where you live but if you petition Council with a number of your neighbours you might get a faster service.

The Municipal Hall was replaced by a previous Council. However, the money spent on the Municipal Hall would have nothing to do with the water budget. They are separate entities and the water utility would have no call on those funds.

This Council is trying to do the best for the community but if you think you can do a better job by all means, brush up on your facts and run in the next election. I, for one, try to base my decisions on facts.

Gyula Kiss



Anonymous said...

It is by no means limitless, but there is a lot more available than some like to imply.....

Coldstreamer said...

And you know this how?

Anonymous said...

There have been numerous studies on the Duteau Creek watershed that show that in most years there is more water available, than can currently be stored. We have a storage problem, not a lack of water. I have had extensive conversations with many people in the water utility regarding this issue. I get the feeling that you would like to create an illusion that there is no water available to control population growth in this region.

Of course the supply is not endless, but with better management of what we do have, including more extensive reuse of our liquid waste water, we will be able to be a sustain a growing population and have a reliable water supply.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Coldstreamer on a great reply to a rather rambling complaining letter. We all should be aware that we live in one of the driest water basins in Canada, and there will be times, perhaps measured in years, where there will be insufficient water to meet anything but basic needs. We were lucky this year, but a couple low snowpack winters will see a lot of lawns taken out for rock gardens! I agree with you on this utter nonsense about some conspiracy in water pricing.

Anonymous said...

The Morning Star needs a fact-checker.

It is interesting to see what they choose to publish (and when).

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.

Gyula Kiss;


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About Me

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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.