Friday, January 27, 2012

Oblivious to the Obvious

It's 2012 and, since this New Year brought some new faces to municipalities following the November elections, a renewed fervor to fine-tuning budgets appears appropriate.

Those new faces want to prove they deserved your vote.

When the City of Vernon's bureaucrats rolled out their department's wish lists, the potential tax hike of 8.5 per cent likely shocked the newcomers, second only to the reaction of residents.

"We'll be disappointed if we don't knock three or four per cent off," offers newly-elected mayor Rob Sawatzky, reported by The Morning Star newspaper's January 25th issue.

At the risk of giving the newspaper more credit than it deserves, Mayor Sawatzky and New-Crew need simply read the rest of that newspaper's pages (including the political cartoon) to get their toes pointed in the right direction.

But first, let's consider the topics the New-Crew is pondering as they hope to limit increases to "zero to 2.3 per cent":  (from Richard Rolke's article) "...renovating the current library for city staff offices, road rehab on 25th Avenue and Silver Star Road, sidewalks on Alexis Park Drive and $80,000 for a core review of city services."

And maybe increasing parking fees.
That ought to immediately have the Downtown Merchants' Association wringing their hands in disgust.
Because they're already suffering from free parking offered by the big box stores at the North end of town.

Is that what New-Crew is oblivious to?  Yes, but there's more.  A lot more.

Afoot are plans to have all City of Vernon workers together at one 14,000 square foot site.  This means renovating the current library building--once the library staff have moved to their new digs on 30th Avenue--moving staff from a rental office on 30th Street as well as staff from a city-owned (the old Coldstream Hotel) property.  "Staff with similar duties will be together, and they will be close to city hall," justifies manager Kim Flick.

Plus that allows the ground floor of city hall to be used for the RCMP, whose offices next door to city hall are too small.

So what?

So $600,000 is what!
Plus the planned $80,000 for a "core services review".
Why is it that the sheer number of bureaucratic employees doesn't make it obvious what the problem is?  But let's throw another $80,000 at it to prove we're right in our view that there's too much bureaucracy, too much governance, too many high-paid government employees, especially while the private sector is dwindling.

In an age of fibre-optic corporate intranets, video conferencing, and workgroup emails--all of which the City of Vernon already has, including corporate cars as a last resort--why is this plan even being considered during these cautionary economic times???? 

Because Vernon's economy is improving?  Nope.

Just look at another headline in the same newspaper issue:  "U.S. company acquiring Vernon-based tekmar".
Watts Water Technologies of North Andover, Massachusetts, CFO William McCartney was quoted as saying:  "We remain committed to the facility and the workforce there."

Rings a bell...where have we heard that before?

Oh yes...when Owens-Illinois purchased the Lavington plant of Consumers Glass, a major employer here. OI closed the plant in 2008, with 300 workers out of a job.

Sixty-five employees work at tekmar.

Even the newspaper's political cartoon hints--virtually screams--of the problem:  "Hey, there's no category for adjusting ... salaries...pensions...perks" under author IRice "Balancing My BC Budget".

"Clear to me," intones Kia, "but opaque to Vernon's New-Crew."

So...does this focus on Vernon's woes imply that Coldstream's New-Crew has their budget in line with residents' wishes? 
No, Coldstream's woes are deserving of a separate storyline.

Coldstream's new-crew--with one exception--is the old crew.
Their continuing lack of economic focus designates them as No Clue.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rail Rage?

More bizarre than road rage, a Coldstream resident was arrested Saturday morning for...wait for it...threatening a train:

How appropriate, then, that Coldstream is enacting a new...yep, another...bylaw; this time "to regulate or prohibit the making or causing of noises or sounds in the municipality."

A good thing that Coldstream will place controls on train whistles--especially during the night or early morning hours.

Oh...the bylaw doesn't cover train whistles during the night?

What is covered by the new noise bylaw then if not the shrill whistle of a train while the population is abed?

General regs begin with "...any noise in or on a public or private place which disturbs or tends to disturb the quite(sic), peace, rest enjoyment, comfort, or convenience of any persons in the neighbourhood or vicinity....noise or sound which occurs thereon or flows therefrom, play or operate any radio, stereophonic equipment or other instrument or any apparatus for the production or amplification of person shall own, keep or harbour any animal or bird which, by its cries, unduly disturbs the peace, quiet, rest or tranquility of the surrounding neighbourhood or the public at large."

Hours:  on any day before 07:00 hours or after 21:00 hours:  construct, erect, reconstruct, alter, repair or demolish any building, structure or thing or excavate or fill in land in any manner ... no person shall for profit or gain on a Sunday construct, erect, reconstruct, alter, etc. etc.

Other:  no outdoor public address systems (without a permit), shall not operate a snow vehicle, motorboat or motorcycle which makes or causes noise, no person may operate, or cause, suffer or permit the operation of any gas powered or motorized lawn mower, weed cutter or other motorized lawn-grooming or garden equipment that produces a noise that can be heard from an adjacent property between 21:00 and 07:00, including "Jake" or any type of engine brakes.

Surely after the mention of engine brakes would be "railway whistles"!

Nope.  Not there.  Anywhere.

This hastily scribed bylaw replaces one that stood for 27 years.

In the new bylaw, "noise" is "any loud outcry, clamour, shouting or movement, or any sound that is loud or harsh or undesirable.

Somebody ought to whisper in Coldstream's ear that no noise control bylaw is worth the paper it's written on without defining decibel (maximums) to back up the fuzzy and subjective claim of "tends to disturb".

And the district of Coldstream had better hurry up and order a few decibel meters to loan out to their citizens.
Without a record of the decibel reading at the time of the "infraction" to prove there was an infraction, as well as its duration (no mention of that at all), the hastily scribed bylaw is incorrect, therefore moot.
Another recent Coldstream bylaw shares its reputation.   

"I also don't want to suffer from mowers around here, too," admits Kia, "but I worry most about movement being listed." Movement is a noise?

So, with no reference to train whistles, we residents can only hope that Coldstream's next move will be to second a motion that the District of Coldstream supports the railway

What will that do, you ask?

Why, just like our farming sector recently learned, when Coldstream states their official "support" of an industry, they swifty follow it with bylaw(s) regulating it (most recently local farms received a bylaw that limits/designates where and how many farm signs they can display; and the Coldstream Ranch is now also "supported" with regulations on its landfill, which soil has to go where, and which roads their trucks can use.)

Thankfully, our farming sector is exempt from the new noise bylaw (otherwise they could put up one more sign...a For Sale sign).

Somebody on council should make a Motion to support the railway.

Because only then can train whistles be included in the noise bylaw.
And maybe people will stop threatening the train.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Coldstream's Convoluted Consumption Calculations

Intricately folded, twisted or coiled is the definition of Convoluted.

I expected the next dictionary definition to state:  District of Coldstream's water "consumption" fees

Bureaucrats and politicians have missed veiling the desire for revenue with their stated focus to conserve the water resource.  Missed it by a long shot.

The Fourth Quarter (Oct.1 to Dec.31/11) water invoices--complete with "but" charges--for 3 meters on the Highlands Golf property are as follows:

Irrigation meter: 
Invoice amount:  $178.90
Consumption:   0 cubic metres

Clubhouse meter:
Invoice amount:  $132.50
Consumption:  14 cubic metres

Residence meter:
Invoice amount: $86.48
Consumption:  36 cubic metres

Qualifiers (the "but" charges) ... Residential water base $66.20 includes 10 cubic metres; above 10 cubic metres the rate is tiered.  Sewer charge is based on first quarter water consumption and charged each quarter.  If consumption is less than 15 cubic metres, a base rate of $88.84 is levied.  If over 15 cubic metres, the charge is $54.19 plus $2.31 per cubic metre used.

Nowhere on the Irrigation or Clubhouse Invoice is a "but" charge Commercial explanation provided.  It's simple...Highlands Golf used zero cubic metres of irrigation water in the third quarter, but the invoice is $178.90!  No qualifier has ever been provided on the commercial invoices.

Ah...who said community coffers are not built on the backs of commercial business?

Nobody dares to complain that the less water one uses, the more one pays...

"The only thing they omitted," suggests Kia, "is that you pay more if you have blue eyes."

Folded, twisted AND coiled.