Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hegler Fuming over Duteau Creek water

Another good letter to the editor of The Morning Star, published August 17, 2011:
Who in their right mind would spend millions of dollars to treat water to Interior Health standards and then pump it on to the land as irrigation water?  John Hegler, Coldstream resident
Who indeed!
But we're already irrigating with chlorinated water, so why not spend another $20 million to filter water at the one year old Duteau Creek water treatment plant, and then we can irrigate with even better water.

But we digress from Hegler's letter...

"As a Kalamalka Lake water customer for more than 50 years, I find it deplorable that I was forced onto Duteau Creek water.  In my opinion, this plant is the most ill-conceived and opulent spending of taxpayers' money, as it is turning out to be nothing more than a white elephant.

We have invested $29 million in this plant, $6 to $8 million for operating costs, and now Interior Health wants us to spend another $20 million to upgrade to their standards.  In my opinion, the biggest mistake that was made was that there were no twin waterlines, one for residential and one for irrigation purposes.

Who in their right mind would spend millions of dollars to treat water to Interior Health standards and then pump it on to the land as irrigation water?

It's probably the most expensive water in Canada.  The high water rates we pay for this plant run by Greater Vernon Water and we, the taxpayers, are paying the top brass well in excess of $100,000 yearly salaries.  In return, we are receiving continual water advisories.  Weren't residents left with the impression the need for these advisories would virtually disappear if this plant was built?

Seventy-five per cent of all water use is for agricultural and commercial use, 25 per cent for residential use.  We put water restrictions on the 25 per cent usage, charge an arm and a leg, are told to boil our water for most of the summer and then they try to brainwash us that there is a shortage of water.  If that were true, wouldn't there be a moratorium on house construction?  How can you pat yourself on the back and give yourself a raise for doing such an outstanding job?

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
John Hegler

"We've brow-beaten Greater Vernon Water continually," admits Kia, "and I think it's time we pounded on Interior Health's door to tell them they're taking their government jobs much too seriously.  We aren't Walkerton Ontario!"

You may just have a point there, Kia.

It's one government agency (Interior Health) telling another government agency (Greater Vernon Water) to meet their NEW standards.

Akin to the make-work projects for which government (at all levels) has become famous.

"With the fooled taxpayers in the middle, paying for it," adds Kia.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Abuse of Power by District of Coldstream? So, who's really surprised?

Judy Paterson's letter to the editor appeared in The Morning Star on Friday, August 12th.

...happy indeed to add Judy to the ever-growing number of Coldstream residents who are fed up with Mayor Garlick and his council's expansion of municipal some it's abuse, while others just call it "creeping socialism".  

"I am commenting on LM. Nuefeld's letter in The Morning Star.  The letter provided examples of road projects that seem to have 'missed the mark.'  As much as we all want pretty roads and some of us do want bicycle paths, the question that Nuefeld exposes is -- who are these projects serving and why are certain decisions made by municipalities with respect to bike paths and road works?

The point of this letter is to peel back some of the layers of how decisions are made at the municipal level that allow for what may look like (or are, in actuality) liberal use or abuse of power at the municipal level.

The Local Government Act and the Community Charter bestow broad powers on municipal governments.  There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is to grant municipalities responsibility (and cost) for the upgrading of roads and such within their jurisdictions.  This removes the cost burdens of road maintenance from the province.  Road maintenance at the local level is supposed to be paid for through our local taxes.  Lately, however, a new form of funding is on offer.  The provincial government responded to the economic downturn by allowing municipalities accesss to gas tax money for certain community-based projects.  Bicycle paths fall under this category.

Projects are generally spoken about in terms of benefits to the community.  Presumably these benefits outweigh the process of acquiring lands and gifts necessary to build them.  This is one of the reasons that bicycle paths are popping up in all sorts of places.  It is hard to say that a bicycle path doesn't contribute to better health, or a more sustainable community, and face it, who wouldn't want a "free" bicycle or multi-use path?  There is one problem:  the land necessary for these projects must be available to the municipality if they don't currently own it.  This is the missing piece of the "free" path or road upgrade.

Up until very recently, it is developers, large and/or profit-based businesses, that "gift" land or services.  If you are a business, the assumption is that you can afford to support the community to a greater or lesser extent.  Sometimes, the cost of doing business in the North Okanagan is steep, however.  Especially if your profits are being eroded by the economic downturn and you are struggling to keep afloat.  Is this a problem?  It could be for your business.

Many of us assume that the passing of bylaws is fair and consistent with people's values.  For the most part, they may be, but anyone who has gone to council and objected to a bylaw will soon find that this rarely has the effect of stopping or adjusting the bylaw.  The reason:  broad powers as it relates to bylaws -- those laws that allow local authorities to dictate how we all go about living our lives and how simple words such as building permit, development and gift get encoded into law.

Very recently, the notion of development (often a word that embodies a negative connotation) has taken on a more ominous meaning in the North Okanagan through the wording of bylaws.  The term development is now being applied broadly to any type of building permit.

That means for you, the taxpayer and property owners, your municipal government has the power to force you to give them land for whatever purpose they demand.  For example, in return for such requests as to upgrade your home, build a raised deck, or add a bathroom, you may be singled out for special "gifting" to your municipality.

This labeling (of) private individuals as developers in return for standard building permits puts every private home owner in this valley at risk for providing at least some form of funding for community projects such as road works and bicycle paths.  Cash, road works, or land -- it's all up for grabs.

We all love beautiful roads and community spaces.  But when individual citizens are expected to pay privately, we should all take note:  which neighbour really pays?"      J.Paterson

Need more proof that Judy Paterson is correct?
Read example from the same issue of the newspaper:
Councillor Bill Firman "was upset that a map in the regional growth strategy," (produced by yet another level of government whose office is a few blocks from the District of Coldstream), "identifies a portion of Buchanan Road as a future development area."  Firman was then "told that the only reason the regional growth strategy includes the Buchanan Road site is because that area has been identified for growth by the District of Coldstream."
To which another councillor, Maria Besso replied "Huge swaths of land are identified (Ed. note: for development) near Lumby and Spallumcheen."

Huh?  A Coldstream councillor wants to forfeit a larger property tax base by giving it to other areas?  Huh? 

Getting back to Judy Paterson's point, we quote Councillor Gyula Kiss who responded to Councillor Firman:  "Developers must still come to us and it's up to us as a council to decide what must be done for the development," Kiss said. 

Perhaps a multi-use path?
Maybe cash to move along the approval process for a simple building permit?
(Note to self:  look up Extortion in the dictionary).

By the way, Councillor Firman (other councillors and Mayor Garlick), let it be known that it was the decision of a previous District of Coldstream Mayor and Council that Buchanan Road become a future development area.

"...a much smarter District of Coldstream Mayor and Council than the present ones," offers Kia.

Can you say AMALGAMATION?  Come on, Genie in a bottle, grant our wish!