Saturday, July 12, 2014

Campaign Set For $70M Water Vote

Written by Peter McIntyre Friday, 04 July 2014 12:18 
Gyula KissMedia adds, a flyer in utility bills, community presentations, and a web page dedicated to the issue

Those are ways the Regional District of North Okanagan will use to inform Greater Vernon residents on the pros and cons of this fall's 70 million dollar water referendum.

Coldstream Greater Vernon Advisory Committee director Gyula Kiss was the lone opponent to the campaign, feeling it's biased toward the Yes side, and he plans to vote No in November.

"I can't tell somebody how to vote. I'm telling them how I will vote, and why I am voting that way, and then they can make up their mind if they want to vote against or for," Kiss tells Kiss FM.

Kiss is opposed to the direction of the plan which includes $26 million in filtration at the Duteau Creek water treatment Plant, which he feels is wasted spending when most of the water will be used for agriculture.

Kiss also wanted the plan put to a peer review, believing it would be beneficial to get another opinion on it, as he says the same consultants have worked on it since 2002.

BX-Silver Star director Mike Macnabb calls it a good communication strategy that is simple and clear enough for the public to understand.

"What we're trying to do is have some certainty going forward," said Macnabb.

RDNO administrator David Sewell say both the Yes and No sides are presented in the campaign, and they are trying to be as factual as they can.

"We're not trying to have dire consequences of a No vote," said Sewell, in response to Kiss's comment the information is like "threatening people with hell-fire" if they don't vote Yes.

As for how much a Yes vote would cost the average household, that's described in the material as "below a dollar a day, less than the cost of one litre of bottled water between 2015 and 2020."

The "carrot and stick" approach to public information is what GVW used in the 2004 campaign to "encourage" residents to vote in favour of the $35 million borrowing referendum. Below is a sample of the information provided to voters.

It is quite apparent that the  promises did not materialize and the meteoric rise of water rates surpassed that of the indicated "no" vote rate. While the  Kalamalka source received ultra violet disinfection the Duteau source only received cosmetic improvements, no disinfection other than chlorination.

Total cost up to 2013 on infrastructure improvements was $67 million, well over the $35 million approved by voters.
The current approach to "encourage" voters to vote "Yes" to the $70 million referendum is similar to the technique used in 2004. Note that the recommendation by staff was to use the Alternate Approval Process instead of the referendum. That was not accepted by the politicians. 

Check out the selling plan below.

The above image is the GVAC approved strategy to provide balanced information to voters.
You can observe that if we voluntarily agree to borrow $70 million we will avoid the ire of Interior Health (IH) and complete a yet undetermined set of improvements within 5 years. Failing to approve the borrowing "IH may order GVW to complete the system improvements at any time."
That means if we do not voluntarily spend $70 million then we may have to do so by order. IH is an appointed body. We'll have the opportunity to appeal their order to the Provincial  Government and also have a better reason to request grants to fulfill the order. Further more, IH did not give us this plan, it was the majority of GVAC that gave this plant to IH for approval without an external review. There is nothing we would lose by voting "NO" and there is a potential that the current MWP would be reviewed by an external group.

Just to provide another bit of information: the current loan of $35 million is costing us about $2.45 million annually. That represents about $102.00 per household if we use the base fee as a guide. The additional borrowing, thus, would add an extra $204 per household (using the current number of connections of 24,000).

My major concern, however, is the fact that for a projected $180 million expenditure on infrastructure we would still have an inferior product. We would continue spending $2-2.5 million in perpetuity on treating Duteau Creek water to obtain a quality that is provided by Kalamalka and Okanagan Lakes without treatment. In addition, most of this expensive water would continue to irrigate agricultural crops.
My intention is to provide further information in future postings. I would be quite willing to respond to any questions posed by the readers.


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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.