Saturday, December 13, 2014

One More Resident Pens Disgust

Bob Patmore penned a letter to the editor of the Morning Star, succinctly expressing what everyone is feeling regarding water rates here:

In regard to your article about the Greater Vernon master water plan defeat, I can sure see why.

"...voters have lived their lives struggling to pay
their living expenses."
Bob Patmore

For a start, the authorities came down again, like Big Daddy, saying: 'We will do this for you.  All you have to do is grant us $70 million for our plans.'

The citizens of the area, still reeling from recent high expenditures, are saying, 'Enough is enough.'

And now, Eric Foster, MLA, points out that money will not likely be forthcoming from government coffers, as they are spending the money we have given them on locations where there are more voters.

He also includes a veiled threat to put in the water system anyway.  So then we would no doubt have to pay for it.  Thanks a lot Eric.

Many of our voters have lived their lives struggling to pay their living expenses.  A figure of $70 million for a water system is beyond our belief.  The suggestion by Gyula Kiss seems to make sense, and if we used more water from our lakes, we would not have the usual run off problems of muddy surface water from the creek."
                            Bob Patmore

"We should all be grateful to Gyula Kiss...he's encouraging us to think for ourselves...a good start," offers Kia. 

Baaaaah, baaaaaah.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Choking on Vernon Gas Prices

Update: December 12, 2014:

Winfield gas price $1.039 while Vernon gas price $1.099
No wonder everybody shops south of Vernon!

Sputtering, actually, in disgust that Vernon gas prices are still $1.179 a litre.

A barrel of oil today is listed at $60.94 on BNN.

Toronto gas price is $1.066
Halifax is $1.084
Calgary is $0.958
Edmonton is $0.88 a litre.

The Canadian average price is $1.07 a litre.

Click here to find the lowest gas prices.

"I suppose we're going to do some Christmas shopping in Kamloops," says Kia.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

RU 10 Disappears from Coldstream's DRAFT OCP

Well, hallelujah, if Coldstream's Official Community Plan--as presented to the Committee of the Whole at tomorrow's meeting--makes it.

And congratulations to the Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association, whose fierce opposition to the RU10/RU30 zoning was heard loud and clear by officials.

That doesn't usually equate to elected officials backing off, but perhaps it will this time.

It's only a draft...actually one of several begun over a year ago.

But the 72-page document dated December 3, 2014 appears to have axed RU10 wherever it previously appeared, though RU30 will remain.

It appears that Mayor and Council have ticked the "Responsive" and "Participatory" boxes.

"It's not written in stone yet," warns Kia, "so curb the ebullience."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Penalty for Conserving Water

That's exactly what it amounts to.
A hit for using 20 per cent less water.
Compliments of Greater Vernon Water and the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members that  approved Greater Vernon Water's rate sheets...yes, sheets (plural) (rates begin on page 9 of 14).  (Remember that the Black Mountain Irrigation District has ONE rate sheet, and it's double spaced).

Don Graham's letter to the editor was printed in the Morning Star December 5, 2014:

"I recently received my third quarter utility bill and the water cost portion of this bill is enormous.  

Last year when I received the same third quarter bill (which I also thought was enormous), I decided to do something about it and adjusted my water consumption, bringing my water usage down by almost 20 per cent.  

Guess what?  My bill this year was almost the same as last year!

A review of what has happened here has brought me some interesting results.  On March 19th, the Regional District of North Okanagan board approved a new tiered fee structure, including the infrastructure base fee, increasing the cost to domestic (residential users) by almost 20 per cent.
Yes, almost 20 per cent.

This in the face of inflationary guidelines of two per cent.  I guess the cost of water is not included in the calculations for inflation."
          Don Graham                                       

A timely water issue excerpt from The Rotarian, December 2014, issue:

"...I wondered whether maintaining and improving infrastructure is the right approach, and thought about the significance of flushing our toilets and watering our gardens with potable water.  In some countries, like China, tap water is not fit for human consumption or is of dubious quality, while potable water is delivered through water dispensers.  In places like Hong Kong, toilets are flushed with seawater, and potable water is delivered through a different set of pipes..."
Christian Kober (Shanghai, China)

" improving infrastructure the right approach?" muses Kia.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Failed Referendum Doesn't Lead to Peer Review

No, it doesn't.
And the referendum never said it would.
Although Coldstream Councillor Kiss wished it had.

Thoughtful letter from Terry Mooney today, in The Morning Star's letters:

Water plan peer review required:
Following the Regional District of North Okanagan presentation at the Schubert Centre, I am even more convinced of the wisdom of the no vote in which the electorate, by a two to one margin, opted for a peer review of the Greater Vernon water plan.  From the reaction of Greater Vernon folks attending, it is evident that most came away, firm in this position.  Here's why:

1.  Out of hand dismissal by RDNO and water advisory staff of the history and many years of toil and struggle by past mayors and councils to develop the foundation of a safe, dependable and cost-effective water system that served residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial and recreational needs of the Greater Vernon family.

2.  We were presented with phase one of the master water plan with a price tag of $70 million which perpetuates the over-reliance on the Duteau system to provide safe, affordable water to our user base.  Conspicuous by its absence was any reference to phase two, which follows the six-project itinerary and we would again be asked for an additional $38 million for future upgrades.  So then we would be forced to face funding of $108 million.  But that's not all.  Add to this, the $61 million already spent on the Duteau system, and an additional $38 million required to maintain and service the system over the next five years and we are on the hook for close to $200 million.

3.  Conspicuous by its absence also, in the master water plan, is any reference to what easily could have been presented as option 10 in the plan.  We were presented with nine options that were considered by a multitude of experts to be the best solutions to our water problems going forward.  These nine options were focused primarily on continued development of the Duteau system, and the Duteau/Kalamalka combination supply scenario at the expense of applying the same due diligence to option 10 which is development of the Kalamalka/Okanagan Lake system.  When asked why this important option was not included in the master water plan, we were told that the experts didn't think it worthy of their consideration.  Yet, option 10 uses the best of all resource possibilities, these being two great deep lake water sources which by their nature would require the least filtration, the safest, time-tested quality drinking water, the easiest reclamation process, and less reliance on the tenuous, unpredictable and cost-intensive Duteau system.

4.  We were told that our licensure holdings for Kalamalka Lake are maxed out and that we could not expand our licensure for Okanagan Lake because the province favors fishing licensure over the need for water supply to our community.  The licensure issues can be addressed at the political level by seasoned negotiators on behalf of all of us to affect(sic) compromise so that sport fishing interests, and fish and wildlife habitats are safeguarded as well.

5.  Through the term of RDNO's quest for public funding, there has been a threat of fear-based rhetoric emanating from RDNO management, water advisory management and staff, and some local politicians that Interior Health would and will force us to accept the proposed water plan because we have "no alternative" plan in place to meet 2014-15 federal water standards.  An Interior Health official was at the public meeting and reassured the audience that IH had no intention to force any action if a no vote prevailed.  A reasoned response by Interior Health in the face of a fear-based attempt to sway voters calls for dialogue with all stakeholders to develop a plan that addresses all present and future water safety issues.

6.  And finally, fear of mussel infestation into our two deep lakes was voiced by water advisory management as a rationale for not using Kalamalka/Okanagan as the principal drinking water source for our community.  We were told that it was not a matter of "if" but "when" this will occur.

This fear-based approach fails to take into consideration the resources that were mustered and brought to bear by Okanagan citizens, working together with provincial and local law enforcement personnel to counter and ultimately defeat the milfoil scare of the past 20 years.  Why wouldn't we do this again if it were needed?

To address all of these questions, what's needed is a peer review of the entire referendum question.  This can only be accomplished in the days ahead by marshaling the no vote so loudly and wisely voiced in the referendum.

I am at a loss to explain why in the face of an overwhelming rejection of the Greater Vernon water plan as presented, RDNO and water advisory personnel continue to use the media to install fear and to obfuscate, instead of leading the way toward review which is the public will.  Perhaps the new mayor and council who lead the way in opting for peer review, will consider cleaning house and reconstructing a water advisory board that is at a minimum responsive to public input."
Terry Mooney


"The water authority and their consultants create fear-mongering in spades," suggests Kia, "it's up to us to see through it."

A water advisory board that is--at a minimum--responsive to public input?  (coughing)...

Money for Frivolity

Seems they can always find money for that.
During tough economic times, frivolous stuff is the stuff that you can't eat, sleep in, wear, or live in to stay warm.

So, yes, a rail trail for recreation is frivolous.

This time bureaucrats from Kelowna to Vernon and Coldstream, including the North Okanagan Regional District, are all ga ga (keen) to purchase Canadian National's 47.5 kilometre rail line for $22 million, despite 2.5 kilometres of it being smack amid the Okanagan Indian Band's reserve. 

And there's a refreshing comment--sadly missing from Coldstream and NORD administration--as Chief Byron Louis admits " may not fit into our (membership's) needs". 

Congratulations, Chief Byron.
You're considering whether your membership--residents--as a whole, would benefit.
Not just a few people here and there.
Unlike our area's administrators...

But there's apparently not a penny available from any government, at any level (including Interior Health) to put towards the $70 million Stage One water plan (its borrowing referendum failed three weeks ago).

Regional district director Bob Fleming was quoted in The Morning Star today as saying "Canadian National still has to salvage the rails and the signals." 

Yet he added that "...possible uses are for a commuter rail service or a recreational corridor".

The Okanagan Rail Trail people will be upset if they lose it as a planned recreational corridor.

But a commuter rail service?
AFTER CN salvages the rails?
So we taxpayers would have to pay for laying down new rails after CN tore up its rails? 

"I smell a bureaucratic SNAFU," says Kia, rolling her eyes at the future cost.

A rail trail. 

"What we wanted was a continuous corridor..." said Coldstream Mayor and self-described pragmatic socialist Jim Garlick.

"To aid people gettin' out of Dodge," offers Kia. 

 Looks like Canadian National's the winner with this plan.

Okanagan Rail Trail photo (2013)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Water Logic...

Thank you to the following commenter, who clarified: 

"Just a point of correction, the you tube video is Councillor Besso's presentation (the same was given, to no avail, at GVAC March 6th, 2014).
Councillor Kiss also presented at the College during the municipal campaign and also presented to GVAC around the same time. His presentation is in power point form and can be seen on his blog"

Councillor Kiss' powerpoint presentation details:
"PowerPoint review of the proposed Master Water Plan. Included are cost consequences and possible alternatives. Most important issue is an independent review of the plan!

Find the presentation

Best way to view images. Left click on image, right click on new image, left click on "view image", left click on image. You have full view of image"

Where all the others on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee failed.
They just didn't "get it".

Coldstream Councillor Gyula Kiss' powerpoint presentation is worth watching, at full volume, with former Councillor Besso narrating.

Here is the 17:49 video:

"The best 17 minutes you'll spend today," attests Kia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Patronizing, Pompous and Condescending MLA

He has some nerve to state that funds may not be available.
As though Eric Foster's bosses in Victoria haven't pissed away enough!

We residents are presumably to show some semblance of restraint and not expect our failed water referendum's projects to be funded by Victoria?

How about failed water referenda in both Kamloops and Revelstoke?
They subsequently each received a water treatment plant, compliments of Victoria, thank you very much when residents said "no".

You think we've forgotten all the folks lined up at the public trough?  Huge salaries for even deputy ministers and government executives, and BC Hydro, ICBC and their administrations, to name but a few.  Top executives at BC Investment Management Corp got a 310 per cent wage increase, the B.C. Ferries CEO makes more than top three Washington State ferries executives...on and on it goes.

The Morning Star reported MLA Foster as saying: "A vote 'yes' or 'no' doesn't make a difference about getting the government involved...that's not what would drive it.  Funding is allocated on the merit of an application and if there is funding available."

Drive it?
How dare you even mention the word "merit".
Didn't Interior Health convince their government brothers that "the safety of residents' drinking water" is considered meritous?

Your attitude, Eric Foster, is patronizing, pompous and condescending.
And we don't like it.
Remember that some of us still recall a different Eric Foster 30 years who knew how to spell the word humility, the first bag you shed when you became MLA.

Instead of your frequent polishing of the door handles at the regional district, try spending an equal amount of time talking to residents--in coffee shops, in malls, at gas stations.  You will quickly learn what you need to learn.
Certainly more than you're learning from bureaucrats with the focus on collaborative efforts.
It's just more bureaucratic schmaltz.
Because you're listening to the wrong people, Eric Foster.

We North Okanagan residents will not be bullied by you or anyone else.   

Fiscal mismanagement in Victoria now fills volumes of media reports--indeed tomes--most notably since Christy Clark's rise to the helm of the B.C. Liberal party. 

What's most upsetting about having typed that last sentence is that I'm a B.C. Liberal.
Okay, former Socred.
Since 2011 and 2012, though, I'm more inclined to hold my nose when considering the Liberals' management of this formerly fine province.

Step back from your preconceived notions, Eric Foster, learned from bureaucrats within the confines of the regional district boardroom.
That's far too safe because you end up hearing only what you want to hear.

Go talk to people...taxpayers and you'll get an eye-opener.
The problem started with one premise:  Former GVW Manager Al Cotsworth's admission on why Duteau Water Treatment Plant needed to be built:  "We need to be able to change sources (from Duteau to Kal Lake, and vice versa) during emergencies such as water main breaks or serious contamination".

Throw out that premise.
Start again.

Consider, yes consider, what Gyula Kiss has been saying all along, quoted in the newspaper today:  "...a solution where the Duteau source would provide untreated raw water to the agricultural community and create a supply of treated water to the 20 per cent of domestic customers currently supplied by the irrigation line."

Because 80 per cent of Duteau's chlorinated water is used for irrigation!

Coldstream Councillor Kiss is hoping his "scientific solution--without the crazy political interference"--will be the cream that rises to the top of the slurry.
And it should but it hasn't yet.
But this Master Water Plan will NOT be accepted by residents.

So the powers-that-be had better reconsider Kiss' idea.

We residents are all thinking the same thing:  Could not someone--anyone--have recommended that that 20 per cent of Duteau's customers, who need domestic water, have received a one-time government donation/grant of state of the art water treatment for their home.  Not unlike the government program that donated farmers water meters two years ago...when the rest of us had to pay for meters.

All others, latecomers (new owners from real estate sales, home renovators, etc.) to the chiefly Lavington/East Coldstream area, would be advised that the grant period had ended and that they were solely responsible for domestic water quality.

That would've been a hell of a lot cheaper than what GVW is proposing with the $70 million water plan.
Probably $50 million cheaper...

What'll it take to have common sense prevail? 
First, Eric Foster should get out and talk to the people who pay the bills, who pay his wages (and fund his pension).

"It may take more than civil disobedience and not paying Q1 water bills," offers Kia "to show our contempt for the way we residents are bullied by bureaucrats and politicians."

Yes it might.
But firstly remember that Interior Health works for us, the taxpayers.
Not the other way around.
Same with politicians, of all stripes...and pomposity.

BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan made more than the top three Washington State Ferries executives combined." - See more at:
BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan made more than the top three Washington State Ferries executives combined." - See more at:

CHBC-TV on Failed Water Referendum

Good job, CHBC-TV in Kelowna.

For including an interview with Gyula Kiss, a director of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, on the failed water referendum held in the North Okanagan November 15th, 2014.

Mr. Kiss' opposition to the Master Water Plan was supported by the electorate.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 Local Elections

Akbal Mund, Mayor:  3,714
Victor Cumming 3,089.
Mary-Jo O'Keefe 1,319
Klaus Tribes 1,011
Jamie Morrow 442

Vernon Council:
Brian Quiring 4,275
Bob Spiers 4,162
Juliette Cunningham 4,120
Catherine Lord 4,006
and newcomers:  Dalvir Nahal 3,919; Scott Anderson 3,805.

Outside the 6 seats:
Kari Gares 3,581
Mark Olsen 3,514
Jack Gilroy 3,451
Shawn Lee 3,271
Janet Green 3,027
James Todd 1,568
Colt Wilson 1,127
Art Gourley 768.

Coldstream:  (Mayor acclaimed:  Jim Garlick)

Coldstream Council:  
Doug Dirk 1,670
Pat Cochrane 1,586
Gyula Kiss 1,537
Richard Enns 1,463
Peter McClean 1,422
Glen Taylor 1,366

Outside the 6 seats:
Shane Hillman 1,351 (missing a seat by only 15 votes).

Referring to his win, Vernon's new mayor stated "It's exciting."

"Vernon's results are juxtaposed with the deafening yawn arising from Coldstream," offers Kia.

Thank goodness Gyula Kiss received voter assent in Coldstream; it's surprising he didn't top the polls to thank him for his work on the water plan's technical committee.

Anyone notice that no voter percentages have been released?

Civic web director/school districts here

Acclaimed Mayor is Part of the Problem

So why quote him after the $70 million water referendum in the North Okanagan fails?

Why not interview Coldstream Councillor Gyula Kiss, whose spearheading of the Master Water Plan's opposition--as the only elected representative (and scientist) on the plan's technical committee--received support from the electorate?

Opposed to the plan were 7,918 residents, while 3,999 voted in favour.
Virtually two-to-one.

But noooooo, Vernon's Morning Star today quoted Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick as saying "There will be work going ahead...staff will meet with the Interior Health Authority on the results and get feedback from them."

That's not what 7,918 residents want.

Jumping with both feet into the hole he himself helped dig, Mayor Garlick added "The overall number of $70 million was the problem."

No, the overall number was not the problem, Mayor Garlick, although $70 million was a close second on the list of taxpayer complaints.

What people want is that no chlorinated water be used for irrigation of acreages.
And they sure as hell don't want chlorinated water--today used for irrigation of acreages--to also be filtered, which is what the $70 million borrowing referendum included.

"Garlick shouldn't give up his day job," sniffs Kia, adding "he'd never make it as a clairvoyant."

Not representing his constituents seems to have become Mayor Garlick's strong point.

"A pity that Victor Cumming didn't reside--and run for Mayor--in Coldstream," adds Kia.

Six hundred twenty-five votes separated Cumming from candidate Mund for Vernon Mayor.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Who's Making Decisions?

Who is in charge of Greater Vernon if--as a blog commenter recently posted--the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee is just that:  an advisory committee, with no decision-making responsibility in their mandate.  

The commenter writes:  "Committees are forums to allow stakeholders to discuss specific issues in detail but all committees are advisory in nature, decision making remains with the Regional Board" this from the RDNO website. No mention of governance or management here. Perhaps that is the problem, the terms of reference or the lack thereof."

The Regional District of North Okanagan--one of 28 in the province of B.C.--lists six municipalities and five electoral areas under their "membership" purview.  The regional district's Board of Directors are drawn--ostensibly for representation purposes--advisory committees.  The word "under" is paramount.   The Board of Directors of the regional district is supposedly in charge of all committees, once bylaws have been approved by the provincial Inspector of Municipalities.  (During last year's recycling plan change in this area, it was reported that 18 regional districts of the province would each receive $1 million from the recycler to launch the program...which led this blog author to believe there were only 18, although the government website states there are 27 (or 28) regional districts in B.C.)

On governance, the regional district states: 

Regional districts are governed by a board consisting of two types of directors:

  • Electoral Area Directors are elected directly by rural area voters, and serve three-year terms.
  • Municipal Directors are first elected to a municipal council, and are then appointed by their council to the Regional District board for a one-year term.
The board selects its own chairperson, who generally sets up committees to deal with issues such as planning, environmental management, and regional growth.
The Board of the Regional District of North Okanagan consists of 13 directors – one from each of the electoral areas and one from each of the municipalities, with the exception of the City of Vernon, which appoints three directors.

Note that nowhere on that governance link is it stated who--or what--has the ultimate power to make decisions, or indeed to veto a planned service or project at any planning stage.   The Inspector of Municipalities sets the rules since regional districts were created in the mid-1960s.  Interesting though is that one of the first things stated in the Act is that:  The inspector is to be attached to the office of the minister and is to be under the control of the minister.

No such statement is made under the regional district or advisory planning committee's mandate.  

Service providers that pre-date regional districts are improvement districts, who generally provide one service such as water, or waste management, governed by an elected board of trustees.  One such improvement district is the Black Mountain Irrigation District, about whose water management success--and managing water costs--this blog has written previously here and here and here.

The upcoming Referendum on Greater Vernon Water's plan to borrow $70 million has raised considerable furor among residents, many of whom don't even know if they're eligible to vote.

Lately, many residents have expressed abject surprise (mostly pleasure) that incumbent mayoralty and councillor candidates--most of whom sat on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, the group of decision-makers that approved the Master Water Plan going to referendum--are stating they will vote "No".   It's been stated that this referendum is just one phase of the plan, with no indication of what future phases will include or at what cost.

Could it not also be said that current Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members--by allowing the contentious Master Water Plan to proceed to referendum--have not "safeguarded the 'public interest', while providing a balance between local government broad powers and autonomy and the transparency and accountability owed to the electorate." 
People may recall the comment from acclaimed mayor Jim Garlick of Coldstream--who was on the GVAC committee that approved the plan--that the referendum "is educational".

Autonomy?  Did Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members consider moral responsibility to their constituents as they learned of the plan from bureaucrats?  Or were they simply harangued into agreement?  In numerous and increasing ways, a local government corporation (despite it also requiring committee members) may in retrospect now appear to be superior to the governance exhibited by members of this regional district.  

Is the preliminary "no" vote of committee members an indication they've listened to their constituents concerns about water rates?  
Or are they now waffling on something that they were instrumental in allowing to proceed to this point?
Or are bureaucrats at the regional district so powerful that the Master Water Plan has been pushed through without the apparent ability of committee members to serve their constituents?  

 Is it any surprise, then, that last year's "amalgamation" push by the Society for the Governance of Greater Vernon perhaps focused on the wrong target?  
"Way too much government" the public was heard to say, yet Coldstream's elected officials saw no benefit in participating in yet another a governance review (think back to Ida Chong's call for a governance review...)

I believe it was Vernon Councillor Mary-Joe O'Keefe (now a Vernon mayoralty candidate) who last year summarily commented on the area's three administrations that included the regional district with the description:  "It's dysfunctional".  Many today would agree.

Perhaps the Society should have focused on maintaining the status quo in Coldstream and Vernon and eliminating the regional district.  "Give the outlying areas--now governed by directors of the regional district--to their nearest municipality or city as they can certainly use the tax dollars" was suggested, i.e. Cherryville to Lumby, Spallumcheen to Armstrong, etc. etc.

Perhaps the best kept secret was the reply from one anonymous senior elected official:  "That's probably a good idea".

...and we'll maintain the individual's anonymity.

Did we learn who is in charge?
Where does the buck stop?

"We've learned that bucks are being pulled out of residents' wallets at an alarming rate," offers Kia.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bless the Black Mountain Irrigation District

...and the people who run it.

The only thing that upsets me--and acquaintances and colleagues--is that we don't live there.
Or that they aren't in charge of Greater Vernon Water here.

Here's Black Mountain's one page rate sheet for acreages and residential water usage...note the whopping $10.00 for new accounts!

No small peanuts, the Black Mountain Irrigation District is the largest improvement district in the province!  They manage 600 square kilometres of watershed.  Read and see photos here

And look at their recent projects!  Here.
Very impressive.

They are an autonomous local government body responsible for providing water services for the benefits of our ratepayers.

"Note the benefits are to the ratepayers," says Kia, "not the regional district's coffers."

Their officials work for the residents, unlike those at Greater Vernon Water.

Let's invite their Board of Trustees to have a look at the master water plan!
Al Horning is at the far right in photo.  He's a former MP, also MLA, and brought considerable money to the irrigation district from governments.

Forewarned, Bureaucrats Don't Care

There's an adage that "forewarned is forearmed", meaning if you know of something before it happens, you can be prepared for it.
True enough.
And presumably make changes if undesired results might occur.

But GVW bureaucrats and engineers, and their engineering consultants either didn't believe it would happen...or they don't care.
Probably not in their job descriptions to care.

"We were completely blindsided when we received our first Vernon utility bill in the mail."
M.C.R. Krien

Ignoring cause and effect, bureaucrats are ALL about revenue.
The unparalleled gouging of residents by Greater Vernon Water officials surely wouldn't lead to residents abandoning Vernon.
Or would it?

A letter to the editor by M.C.R. Krien today explains what GVW officials didn't plan on--and certainly didn't want publicized if it did occur.

"...if the water usage isn't high enough they tack on an extra $72.30 per quarter for low consumption."

"When my wife and I first considered moving to Vernon, we thought we did our homework on property taxes and fees.  We moved here from another Okanagan location, had a more expensive home but our property taxes, including water, sewer, garbage, recycling (all these utility fees were included in our annual property tax bill), were still less than Vernon, nonetheless we decided we could live with the increase.

We were completely blindsided when we received our first Vernon utility bill in the mail.  These obscene utility rates have got to be Vernon's best kept secret.  Not a word mentioned by real estate agents or anyone else when we were enquiring about property tax rates and fees.  But since then, things have gone from bad to worse.

We received this quarter's water and sewer bill for a whopping $440.  We live on small lot in a gated community where all of the irrigation systems come on for the same amount of time each week.  We have dual-flush, water-saver toilets.  There are only two of us and we are away a great deal of the time.

We don't just let water run down the drain when we are washing fruit and vegetables, but instead run it into a bucket in the sink and then either use the wter to water shrubs and bushes or flush the toilet.  We only take short showers, don't have a hot tub and, as well, shut our irrigation off on rainy days and have a water-saver washing machine.

Furthermore we take our vehicles to the car wash instead of washing them at home.

I compared our utility bill with our neighbours to find that our bill was $200 higher and they often have their grandchildren staying with them.  And they thought their bill was high.  We did notice that our bill contained an extra charge for $72.30 for residential sewer low flat rate, which did not show on any of our neighbours' bills.

We went to city hall to enquire why our rates would be so high and for an explanation for the extra $72.30 charge.  It was explained to us that when they determine the sewer rates in the first quarter, if the water usage isn't high enough they tack on an extra $72.30 per quarter for low consumption.

Yes, that is for low consumption.

So while our neighbours are only paying $50.20 per quarter for base sewer rates, we are paying the $50.20 base rate plus an additional $72.30 for low consumption.  In addition, our bill comparison shows that somehow my wife and I managed to use 65 cubic metres more water than our neighbours.

City hall gave us some tablets for our toilets to test for leaks -- there are no leaks.  They suggested we not run any water and check our water meter to see if the little red tab is still rotating.  It isn't.

Now they are asking Vernon area residents to aprove a $70 million water upgrade, which by the way is only the beginning.

We will be saying so long Vernon.  We are not about to stay living here just to be gouged.  And really, who in their right mind would move to Vernon with the rates already so high and only to get worse?

I suppose the uniformed(sic) like us.  We now know of several younger retirees with higher than average incomes and high percentages of disposal incomes, which should be an asset to any community, who have already left or are planning to leave.  I expect we will be joining the exodus."
M.C.R. Krien

"Call for resignations at GVW," suggest Kia, "start anew, bring in Al Horning from the Black Mountain Water District as an advisor."

And not with another $650,000 study.
And tell Interior Health to be quiet unless they bring money to the table...lots of money, from both Victoria and Ottawa.

Sorry to lose you, Mr. and Mrs. Krien.
But a sincere thanks for taking the time to write the letter.

A good start would be to read this "Water Plan History Detailed, dated February 7, 2014" from Coldstream Councillor Kiss.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Nice Diversion...

...from the area's political and bureaucratic issues.

It's November and, despite the weather remaining relatively mild, time to get crackin' on winter protection for the palms.

In the Okanagan?  Winter?
Yup...palm trees.

It's just a matter of knowing how to keep the fronds, and roots of course, from freezing.

Plus not giving in to the provincial government's ban on incandescent lights...C-7 Christmas lights, which I've kept!  They emit warmth versus LED lights, which do not.

The most important part is the T-3 Thermocube which turns lights on when it registers temp dropping to 35F...and lights are turned off by the thermocube when it registers 45F.

"Teepees" made of either steel fence posts--or $1 broom handles from the dollar store--covered with 6 ml vapor barrier, taped closed with Tuck Tape will hold cooler temperatures at bay for a while.  But the second cover is old solar pool blankets, stretched loosely over the vapor barrier to provide an insulating air space, and held in place with more tape and heavy rocks.

Pictures tell it better:

Ah...palm trees...they love the Okanagan's hot dry summers

One of two Washingtonia filiferas gets its "teepee" frame made of 8'foot long steel fence posts.  C-7 Christmas lights can be seen on the ground at its base.  These lights will heat the interior once a 6 ml vapor barrier skin is applied, followed by an old solar pool blanket.


Not all the palms are Washingtonia.  One Brahea armata, and one Chamaeroops humilis var. cerifera is also protected.

The 3 plants between the teepees are Yucca Rostrata "sapphire skies".  They'll receive teepee framed plastic protection as well, but no heat.

Yuccas simply need their crowns to remain dry through winter, and plastic will provide that.

Then there's this brute...a 10-foot Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm)...which receives a styrofoam-insulated plywood palm hut, its interior heated with a space heater also controlled by a T-3 thermocube.

Trachycarpus fortunei, a little crooked because we tried to pull it straight.  Its plywood palm hut panels will be bolted to the railway tie base shown.

The palm hut during a later winter day in another year.

Have you ever seen flowers on a palm tree?
Like all plants, the Trachycarpus fortunei produces flowers, first inflorescences which can lead to seed production. 

My Trachycarpus has bloomed for several years, starting like this:

 which leads to this:

The palm tree is a male and although it produces pollen, with no blooming female trachycarpus, there'll be no viable seeds produced.  Occasionally a hermaphrodite palm produces pollen and seed, but that is relatively rare.

This old Canary Island Date Palm has lived in successive containers, eventually leading to a garbage can.  Its next home is shown near the patio at Highlands Golf clubhouse.

CIDPs (as they are called) can easily take a 50% root pruning...a good thing, since half the roots are shown in the wheelbarrow.  If it hadn't been planted out, the palm would've declined drastically in health as its roots had "eaten up" all the soil.  And bigger pots (than garbage cans) just aren't available economically.

Rootbound...ya think?  

Oh...and there's a stunning 40-year old Jade Tree that winters in the clubhouse.

The St. Patrick's Day admirer of the Jade Tree was carpenter Hughie.

and the "Dinosaur" plant, Wollemia nobilis, whose parentage goes back millions of years.  The last population was discovered in the Blue Mountains region of Australia:

Wollemia nobilis, rediscovered in 1994

And one of my favourites rounds out the collection, the Bird of Paradise:

Distinctive bloom of Strelitzia, the Bird of Paradise

"Diversion?  More like Plant OCD," grins Kia.

Directors Don't "Manage"

They acquiesce...

Originally submitted to The Morning Star as a letter to the editor, this letter is more appropriate for the blog, and was withdrawn.

Do people really believe that every little community in BC is suddenly filtering water to comply with the Water Act and new Health regulations to limit liability since Walkerton Ontario?  Ask Revelstoke and Kamloops how they got water treatment plants (albeit not filtration) when their residents rejected water referendums.

Whether it’s the rates charged for effluent—or potable—water in the North Okanagan, today’s issues have been building for years because Directors of the water administration of our North Okanagan Communities of Coldstream, Vernon, and Areas B & C through the Regional District do not direct, they acquiesce to bureaucrats.  And for acclaimed Coldstream mayor—and water advisory committee director—Garlick to now state that the water referendum is “educational” is a flagrant insult to all residents who are paying for it.

The problem is that Directors comprise an “Advisory” (vs. Management) Committee.  The first step always in effecting change is to ascertain what went wrong.  Because committee membership is chiefly tied to election terms (3 years; now 4), annexation disputes remove focus and don’t allow members to see beyond their elected term(s).  

Change the name from Advisory to Greater Vernon Management Committee; rewrite their mandate.   Directors need to veto plans, unlike this committee of “advisors” who never veto bureaucrats.

Forget consultants.  We have extremely well-paid professional engineers at GVW whose duties should be to actually design what our “management” committee members have agreed are the “best practices” idea for this area.  They get paid for those skills; not to hire consulting engineers.    

The second step is for Directors to realize that Councillor Kiss has the best practices, to TOTALLY separate water allocations from domestic/potable water.  Unchlorinated unfiltered raw water would be used for outdoor use (golf courses, parks, school playgrounds, turf farms, orchards and vineyards), which complies with the single category allocation they bought and paid for.  Councillor Kiss says the cost of expensive treatment would entirely disappear.

My little 9-hole golf course, Highlands, was built because I had a raw water (non potable) allocation from our 1,100 apple tree operation and no provision existed to sell it back if it wasn’t being used once farming was discontinued.  The golf course is now irrigated with chlorinated water—soon to be “filtered” too—because raw water wasn’t available after Duteau was built.  I was paying 500 per cent more for water, while today using less than 20 per cent of my paid-up allocation.  A 1,000 per cent increase since the orchard was planted.   Meanwhile GVW could re-sell my unused allocation to someone else! 

Only bureaucrats—free from requisite “direction” from directors—could have created that, and working backwards from the revenue they want, comprising myriad categories and six-pages of prices.  

"There could be 40 engineers working on this," offers Kia, "and it would only become a larger fiasco."