Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shut the Gate?

As though that's the answer to reducing water consumption!

But that's what a writer named David Henn suggests in his letter to the editor, printed today in the Morning Star.

"I find it rather frightening that local politicians are urging us to reduce water consumption and at the same time, condoning further development.

It is not rocket science to figure out that the more homes and complexes that are developed, the more water it takes to service them.

There is great concern worldwide about the rapidly declining availability of clean drinking water.  There are multinational corporations buying up fresh water resources for their profit.

The oil sands use enormous amounts of clean water to extract the oil.  The suthern U.S. is critically short of potable water and it is looking north for solutions.  Problems abound worldwide.

To read that our local politicians are urging us to reduce consumption while allowing further growth is ludicrous.

I agree that we should all conserve water and there are many ways of doing this.  

Local politicians could help by reducing further development.  Bigger is not necessarily better."
David Henn

While Mr. Henn says it's not rocket science that more people equate to more water use, he's certainly missing a fundamental point.  Growth of population--yessirreebob, everywhere--creates demand for homes and workplaces and goods and services that large and small businesses strive to provide because -- wait for it -- they can supply what the population demands.   For Profit.  Gulp!   

To suggest that local politicians could help by reducing further development is--to use his word--ludicrous.  Downright ludicrous.

A politician's mandate is to support his community and constituents.
And recognizing that communities grow, a politician's job is to administer orderly, if not ordered, growth.  And to balance the needs of the community with the taxes from constituents that meet those needs.
That historically has meant "majority rules", because a community run by the opinions of a minority simply isn't a community.  It would not accurately represent the needs of most of its residents or businesses. 

And who does he think pays for the increasing demands placed on politicians by that increasing population?  Everyone.  Residents and businesses.  Same with the increases necessary to continue providing those services, including the wages of service and product providers?  Public and private.

But maybe he had no children, so shut the gate?
A simple solution is often not a solution at all.

"So is he wanting to supply the U.S. with our (saved) water?"  queries Kia.

All agree that bigger isn't necessarily better.

But NIMBY-ism isn't the answer.

Maybe that letter writer proposes NIMW-Not in My World.
Instead, he could review Sociology.
And peruse the political science and public administration connection and Aristotle's Study of the State.

To underscore the point, in the same newspaper issue, "Coldstream approves plant" is the headline that announces the zoning change for the Pinnacle Renewable Energy plant in Lavington.
Politicians' votes:  No, from Councillors Kiss, Enns and Dirk.

A majority of four approved the rezoning:  Councillors Besso, Cochrane, McClean and Mayor Garlick. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Six-Hour Meeting Leads to Disappointment

Lavington residents are bitterly disappointed that the planned Pellet Plant will proceed.

A marathon meeting at District of Coldstream on Monday, August 18th, 2014 saw Councillors Kiss, Enns and Dirk opposed to the plant.  But positive votes from Mayor Garlick and Councillors Besso, McClean and Cochrane approved the zoning change, which is the first step necessary to construct the facility.

As reported in the Morning Star today, residents were passionate and emotional, citing safety concerns from plant emissions for their children attending Lavington school, approximately 150metres from the plant.  More than 500 people had signed a petition against constructing the plant at that location.

The Morning Star's front-page story included these comments from residents:

"Too bad for us," said one mom, as she left consoling another.

"I first started out in favour of this plant," admits Brad Broten, a Brewer Road resident whose kids attend Lavington Elementary.  "I no longer am.  We're talking about increasing the risk to a population that is already at risk."

"How much economic growth is worth putting our community and children at risk?" asked Jay Shaw, a Locke Drive resident who was also initially in favour of the plant.

As to economic growth, it was recently reported in another issue that the plant's "tax revenue" to Coldstream is about $5,000 a year for 10 years.

Several residents from West Coldstream have, in unison, stated "Sheesh, I pay more than that in taxes for my place!(s), and I'm (we're) only residential."

"Seems that a form of New York State's 10 tax-free years for business relocation program has crossed the border," suggests Kia.

Coldstream Mayor Garlick still mourns the annual tax loss of the defunct Consumers Glass Plant.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Multiculturalism Gone Wrong?

Excellent letter...

article from the Calgary Herald (from an email), no publication date provided.

"Time to Change Tune on Official Multiculturalism 
by Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald - 

About one dozen families who recently immigrated to Canada are 
demanding that the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg excuse their 
children from music and co-ed physical education programs for religious 
reasons. The families believe music is un-Islamic ~ just like the 
Taliban believe and then imposed on the entire population of 
Afghanistan and that physical education classes should be segregated 
by gender even in the elementary years. 

The school division is facing the music in a typically Canadian way - 
that is, bending itself into a trombone to try to accommodate these 
demands, even though in Manitoba, and indeed the rest of the country, 
music and phys-ed are compulsory parts of the curriculum. Officials say 
they may try to have the Muslim children do a writing project on music 
to satisfy the curriculum's requirements. The school officials have 
apparently consulted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and they 
have also spoken to a member of the Islamic community suggested by 
those very same Muslim parents. In any event, the school district is 
trying to find a way to adapt the curriculum to fit the wishes of these 
families, rather than these families adapting to fit into the school 
and Canadian culture. 

Mahfooz Kanwar, a member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says he has a 
better idea. "I'd tell them, this is Canada, and in Canada, we teach 
music and physical education in our schools. If you don't like it, 
leave. If you want to live under sharia law, go back to the hellhole 
country you came from or go to another hellhole country that lives 
under sharia law," said Kanwar, who is a professor emeritus of 
sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary. 

That might be putting things a little more forcefully than most of us 
would be comfortable with, but Kanwar says he is tired of hearing about 
such out-of-tune demands from newcomers to our country. 
"Immigrants to Canada should adjust to Canada, not the other way 
around," he argues. If they did not like these things in Canada, why 
did they not go somewhere else? If they want Canada to be like their 
homeland why don't they go home? 

Kanwar, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan via England and then the 
United States in 1966, says he used to buy into the "mosaic, official 
multiculturalism" (nonsense). He makes it clear, that like most 
Canadians, he is pleased and enjoys that Canada has citizens literally 
from every country and corner in the world, as it has enriched this 
country immensely. But it's official multiculturalism - the state 
policy "that entrenches the lie" that all cultures and beliefs are of 
equal value and of equal validity in Canada that he objects to. 

"The fact is, Canada has an enviable culture based on Judeo-Christian 
values - not Muslim values - with British and French rule of law and in 
all of the other places in the world. We are heading down a dangerous 
path if we allow the idea of sharia law a place in Canada. It does not. 
It is completely incompatible with the idea and reality of Canada," 
says Kanwar, who in the 1970s was the founder and president of the 
Pakistan-Canada Association and a big fan of official multiculturalism. 

Kanwar says his views changed when he started listening to the people 
who joined his group. They badmouthed Canada, weren't interested in 
knowing Canadians or even in learning one of our official languages. 
They created cultural ghettos and the Canadian government even helped 
fund it. 

"One day it dawned on me that the reason all of us wanted to move here 
was going to disappear if we didn't start defending Canada and 
itsfundamental values." That's when Kanwar started speaking out against 
the dangers of official multiculturalism. He has been doing so for 
decades. So, it's no surprise that Kanwar is delighted with the recent 
speech British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered to the 47th 
Munich Security Conference on Feb. 5. 

"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism," said Cameron, "we have 
failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want 
tobelong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving 
in ways that run counter to our values. So when a white person holds 
objectionable views - racism, for example - we rightly condemn them.. 
But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone 
who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to 
stand up to them. 

This hands-off tolerance," said Cameron, "has only served to reinforce 
the sense that not enough is shared. All this leaves some young Muslims 
feeling rootless and ... can lead them to this extremist ideology." 

Kanwar actually credits German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being among 
the first of the world's democratic leaders to take the courageous step 
in October to say that official multiculturalism had "failed totally.." 
It appears leaders are getting bolder. During an interview with TFI 
channel on Feb. 10, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared: "We have 
been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving 
and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving 
him." Cameron ended his speech by saying: "At 
stake are not just lives, it's our way of life.That's why this is 
achallenge we cannot avoid - and one we must meet." 

That democratically elected leaders are at long last starting to sing a 
different tune on official multiculturalism is sweet music to Kanwar. 
Here's hoping those poor kids in Winnipeg will get to hear some of it."

Licia Corbella is The Herald's Editorial Page Editor

"Definitely food for thought," sighs Kia.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

District of Coldstream Resolution

Today received a letter from the DoC dated July 30, 2014 (file 5210-02) regarding the Private Fire Hydrant.

"At their meeting held July 28, 2014, Council adopted the following resolution:

THAT the District's representatives on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee
be directed to bring forward the Highlands Golf Course Fire Hydrant issue
back to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and request that,
in the interest of procedural fairness,
Greater Vernon Water Utility (GVWU)
review the rates charged for private fire hydrants.

Council respectfully requests that this matter be included for discussion at a future meeting of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.

Keri-Ann Austin, CMC
Director of Corporate Administration"

"With little effort and even less thought, GVWU could accept that private hydrants are as much infrastructure as public hydrants," suggests Kia. "Making a distinction between the two is punitive."

That is...if the search for additional revenue isn't undermining procedural fairness.

Thanks, Coldstream, for realizing that procedural fairness hasn't been applied.

Water User Protests Gouging and Burgeoning Debt

Bureaucrats enact onerous rates, rules and bylaws--often hastily approved by politicians--until one day  taxpayers protest the gouging and smoke 'n mirrors.

Seems bureaucrats are ensuring they have everything both ways:  conserve a resource, but increase its price to keep revenues up.
And on and on it goes.

"...wallets and bank accounts are
comparable to a non-renewable resource"

Donald Craig is one such local taxpayer.

His letter to the editor of the Morning Star, August 15, 2014 is printed here.
It mirrors the opinion of many, many people today.

"Is this a trick or a joke that The Morning Star recently had on the front page "Saving Water - Local Politicians urge residents to reduce consumption" and then page A5 says "...more usage than sustainable..."

What am I missing here?  Last year when my family along with many others conserved as much water as possible your water revenues went down and you our leaders raised our water rates 25 per cent.  Then you tell us that we need to vote on borrowing $70 million to upgrade our water systems after borrowing millions for the Duteau source upgrades.

Don't tell me anymore what I and the public need to do -- show us through leadership what you are doing besides asking for more money when all that seems to be happening is unreasonable debt loads placed on our cities, towns and province.

"making...billing fair and achievable"

What are you our elected officials doing about conserving water -- have you turned off the rooftop fountain across from the courthouse?

Have you quit watering rarely used fields now that their usage is down?  Have you considered making your conservation tier levels on billing fair and achievable for those of us on meters -- upping to tier two after only 10 cubic meters is that real or attainable?

Your own website suggests that those on water meters are more likely to conservate than those that aren't -- put us all on meters just like BC Hydro is dong with smart meters.

Show us the people how you achieve your averages on your new "Make Water Work" website.  Define what is an average Canadian family?  What numbers are you using to calculate that my family fits into your 675 litres of consumption per person per day?  How can I be so different from the average Canadian family when my backyard is all dead and full of thistles?

"Unrealistic debt, unrealistic taxes, unrealistic utility fees
are not a legacy I wish to leave..."

While water is not a renewable resource I fully support conservation and sustainability.  But what I do not support and what is also not sustainable is the debt our elected and non-elected officials locally and provincially are borrowing on our behalf.

While you all continue to raise our debt load, water rates, utility rates, taxes etc., you seek higher wages for your great efforts.  Most people's wallets and bank accounts are comparable to a non-renewable resource and around here I am thinking this resource should be considered more often by our elected officials.

Unrealistic debt, unrealistic taxes, unrealistic utility fees are not a legacy I wish to leave behind to our children and grandchildren.  Lead from the top as you have been elected or appointed to do -- don't expect more wages for more debt, quit watering all of our parks (and rooftops), quit asking for more money -- politicians you need to be part of the solution through leadership. "   Donald Craig

"No argument from me," sighs Kia.

Let's have bureaucrats take Pledge 7...fair and accountable is a good start.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fire at Coldstream Lumber

Thick smoke headed straight up on this windless morning around 9 a.m. when a kiln fire erupted at the nearby Coldstream Lumber remanufacturing plant.

Five or six small "pops" (explosions) could be heard and tall Cottonwood trees bordering the creek candled within seconds.  The kiln appears to be entirely lost.  Despite flames encroaching into the main canvass-roofed building, it likely sustained minor damage as firefighters were quickly on scene.

Golfers stated Ricardo Road was closed to traffic as crews battled the fire.

Hopefully no injuries resulted as crews continued to mop up an hour later.

"Well-trained fire crews are a blessing," offers Kia.

UPDATE:  Within 2 hours, the fire appears well under control:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Coldstream Sends "Private Fire Hydrant" Issue Back to GVW

But with a request for information that should finally provide the transparency so sadly lacking at Greater Vernon Water.

A quick history that could aptly be called Round And Round We Go.
The "private" fire hydrant at Highlands Golf is taxed annually by the Regional District of North Okanagan.
The tax has ballooned from approximately $225 in 2001 to $470 in 2013.  In 2014 it's $560!
Nobody seems to recognize that even a "private" fire hydrant is part of a community's infrastructure.  Or at least until now.  More info at the "Saga" blog story of August 1st, 2014,  here.

So I sought to donate it.
First to Coldstream's fire hall--and then the municipality directly--an offer by me to donate my ~$13,000 (today's value) asset "private" fire hydrant.  All in an attempt to quell the annual tax gouging by GVW.  Was told that Coldstream doesn't own hydrants within its jurisdiction, so the recommendation was to donate it to Greater Vernon Water, which does (apparently) own North Okanagan's public hydrants.  Their engineer appeared to pull the wool over GVAC directors' eyes by first saying there were 17 private fire hydrant owners--then the same engineer a month later said it was 123, not 17.  Then back to Coldstream because, apparently, GVW does not "own" fire hydrants--they merely provide water to them.
Turns out communities pay GVW a nominal fee just over one hundred dollars annually for each fire hydrant.  That information took almost a year to be "discovered".

Ahem!  Oh, for heaven's sake!

Surprisingly--when looking up a bureaucracy image--GVW wasn't the first hit...

Happy to report--actually bloody ecstatic--that Coldstream Council at their July 28, 2014 meeting was unanimous in its decision to:  (unadopted minutes)

"Report from the Director of Engineering Services dated July 21, 2014,
Barb Mitchell appealed to Council to assist her with by either supporting the
donation of her private fire hydrant to the District or the
Greater Vernon Water Utility of having the annual hydrant fee reduced.
Ms. Mitchell further explained that she had attempted to have this issue resolved with the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee but
that they had indicated they would not accept her offer of donation.

Moved by Besso, seconded by Kiss, that the District's representatives on the
Greater Vernon Advisory Committee be directed to bring forward the Highlands Golf Course fire hydrant issue back to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and request that, in the interest of procedural fairness 
 (bold underscore blog author), Greater Vernon Water Utility (GVWU)
review the rates charged for private fire hydrants.
No. REG2014-205 CARRIED"

That then led to the following from the Regional District's Agenda for Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (directors) to peruse at their August 7th, 2014 meeting:

If this "flies" among Directors, there will finally be water rate transparency.
If it "dies", residents--who are concerned about huge increases to their water rates--can blame their area director for waffling under regional district bureaucrats' omnipotence.
Even if residents don't care about fire hydrant "rates".

"That it be recommended to the Board of Directors, staff be directed to
prepare a report to facilitate the discussion of future Greater Vernon Water
Utility rates.  The purpose of the report is to allow the politicians to discuss
the various potential sources of revenue, including taxation, to satisfy the future anticipated needs of the water utility.  The report should include detailed statistics on the present distribution of revenue (2013), including but not limited to: (a) number of connections of each type (breaking out Agricultural, Residential, Industrial, Commercial, Institutional, and other)
(b) present rates charged, and total income received, for each type of customer and service (including fire hydrants). (bold underscore blog author)
(c) detailed maps outlining and differentiating the areas that are and are not
presently serviced by the utility, but are geographically within
the Greater Vernon taxation area;

That the report be brought forward for discussion at either the September 4, 2014 OR earliest
possible Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meeting."

The Regional District brought this on themselves with their lack of transparency.
And gouging.

Have a look at this October 9, 2012 story which proves GVW has no idea--presumably because of a lack of software ability--what the breakdown in taxes among various users is.  Even how much each category uses! 

One word describes that:  outrageous!  

"Bureaucrats need to be accountable to politicians who serve their's about time in the North Okanagan," offers Kia.

It certainly is, Kia.

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding
 what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb.
 ~Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Benjamin Franklin

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hastily Written, Richard?

Fuzzy story in the Morning Star today by Richard Rolke on the proposed pellet plant.

Obviously tiptoeing around the topic of who said what and why--and who didn't-- Rolke appears intent to spin himself into the same confusion readers will experience.  Unfortunately his story casts Councillors Besso and Kiss in a less than favourable light.  See for yourself.

Documents are:  Application to MoEnvironment to Discharge Waste,  and the 38-page Technical Assessment, with the exceedance of  .1  (particulate matter 2.5 size) detailed on page 4.  Letter from Pinnacle is here.  The documents are contained in Coldstream's Committee of the Whole Meeting Agenda for August 5, 2014, item 4, Reports and Items for Discussion.

Here's Richard's story, with blog comments in bold italics:

"Plant proposal sparks debate, by Richard Rolke

Divisions are developing among Coldstream politicians over a proposed pellet plant.

During a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, it was recommended (by whom?  residents present?   or staff?) council not support Pinnacle Renewable Energy's application to the Ministry of Environment to discharge pollutants into the air unless provincial standards are met by the company.

However, opposition (to the recommendation to NOT support, i.e. double negative?  sheesh!  or did other councillors indicate they would support the pellet plant?) came from Councillors Maria Besso and Gyula Kiss.

"It's already clear it doesn't meet provincial standards," said Kiss.  (Kiss and Besso are simply indicating the assessment doesn't meet provincial standards--which is clear from the 38-page report--writer Rolke infers from his awkward sentence structure that Besso and Kiss want the plant built despite emissions expected to exceed provincial standards by .1 PM2.5 size).

Councillor Doug Dirk (of Lavington, the community where the plant is proposed to be constructed), though, defended the recommendation (to not support the application to the MoE ?  whether it came from staff or the public?  where is the staff report?  was/is there one?)

"The Ministry of Environment will determine what it will permit and that's what we're speaking to," Dirk said.  If Pinnacle can't meet the standards, they (who?  MoEnvironment?  or Pinnacle?) will make a decision (to proceed or not)."--Rolke's parentheses, saving me having to query whether the alternative would have been to lower emissions to comply with Ministry of Environment standards).


Several additional paragraphs provide pertinent and compelling comments from residents and Dr. Yann Brierley, a pathologist who lives in Lavington.  They can be read here.

Rolke is silent on whether the Mayor or councillors other than Besso, Kiss and Dirk said a word.

I would've thought Rolke would have posed a question of paramount importance after his closing sentence:  "Coldstream council will hold a public hearing Monday at 6 p.m. to consider rezoning of the property to allow for the pellet plant. "

So what's this question of paramount importance that Rolke did not ask?
It should have been asked of Mayor and Council:  Why hold a rezoning meeting on Monday?
Why not wait for the Ministry of Environment's decision on the .1 PM2.5 above provincial emission standards?

Getting back to Rolke's opening sentence "Divisions are developing among Coldstream politicians...", (you'd think a quote from the Mayor--or Acting Mayor if Garlick is still away--would be appropriate to include...somewhere, anywhere.)

Because Councillor Dirk doesn't want the MoE application supported.
(Which is the same thing Councillors Besso and Kiss are saying.  Because the application doesn't meet provincial standards.)

"Careful that you don't become a dangling modifier, Rolke," offers Kia.

The fact remains that the proposed plant is 150 metres from Lavington School and the 38-page study's "wind dispersal" diagrams show emissions directly towards Lavington School.

If one were a betting individual, emissions will have to be NIL / ZILCH to have Lavington parents allow the plant to be built.

Political futures appear to be hanging in the air...the dusty air.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hydrant Issue Makes the Newspaper

Maybe the other 17 private fire hydrant owners--or is it 123?--will unite to help fight this bureaucratic discrimination (August 1st blog story).

Morning Star Story August 3, 2014, by Jennifer Smith:

"Hydrant fees create debate"

A Coldstream business owner claims she is unfairly being drowned in charges for a fire hydrant on her land, while others are getting a break.

Barb Mitchell, owner of Highlands Golf Course, installed a hydrant on her property as per requirements when the clubhouse was constructed.

But the cost of having a hydrant on her property is surging annually.  The tax started out in 2002 as $225, last year it was $475 and in 2014 it has climbed to $560.

Meanwhile Mitchell claims that Greater Vernon Water charges far less for "public" hydrants.

"How fair is it that Greater Vernon Water charges $133 annually for each public hydrant and they charge me $560?" Mitchell asked Coldstream council Monday.

Despite being on private property, Mitchell says the fire department will use the hydrant if needed to fight a nearby fire.

"The Highlands Golf fire hydrant is indeed part of Coldstream infrastructure regardless who owns it."

Coldstream is eager to examine the issue and will be bringing it up at a future Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meeting.

"We should re-examine the rate charged to private hydrants," said Coun. Maria Besso.

While Mitchell says she would happily pay the same $133 rate for a public hydrant, Coldstream administration has indicated that there are no such charges.

"GVW owns the hydrants with the local municipality paying for yearly maintenance of the hydrants," said Michael Baker, Coldstream's director of engineering services, in a report.

"There are no annual fees paid by member municipalities for the public fire hydrants."

So Coldstream pays +$48,000 for maintenance of 327 fire hydrants?  Sheesh...sounds like bureaucrats are leaving no tone unsterned...(stone unturned).  

OK, so if I pay a maintenance company to maintain the hydrant each year, can I also have no fees for the infrastructure I contribute to Coldstream?

I thought not.

"Good luck with that one," offers Kia, procedural fairness from bureaucrats is a one-page book". 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saga of the "Private Unmetered Fire Hydrant"

First of all, don't know how that  00 per annum  showed up at the right justification beside the heading!!!!  Kismet?  Wish?  Strange...but I can't get rid of it *grin*.

Well, let's see how the Regional District "promotes fairness".

Quick History on the Highlands Golf fire hydrant:
 (lest anyone's eyes glaze over too soon)

2000/2001:  as part of the Development Permit for Highlands Golf construction, either sprinklers in the clubhouse or a fire hydrant "x" number of metres from the clubhouse had to be constructed.  The fire hydrant option was selected, and the NOWA (North Okanagan Water Association, today called Greater Vernon Water, GVW) was paid to "hot tap" into the huge concrete pipe on the south side of Buchanan Road (which brings water from Duteau Creek all the way to Goose Lake).  The hot tap was performed by a Vancouver contractor, after which NOWA staff dug a line across the road, installed a pipe to our fenceline.  It cost a small fortune but was still cheaper than sprinklering the clubhouse.  From there, our contractor installed a 6-inch pipe and installed the hydrant about 50 feet north from the fence.  The rules for the NOWA line across Buchanan included a "latecomer" agreement whereby if a neighbour wished to hook up to it within "x" number of years, we would be returned a portion of his fee to NOWA.  (We did, in fact, receive a cheque from NOWA about a year later when Ed Lane to the east of us subdivided his acreage and was able to hook up to our waterline terminus).  Our consulting engineer, Jamie Torres, read from regional district documents that our fire hydrant must be inspected by their officials prior to "closing in the soil", and that it was optional whether we wanted to meter it.  Mr. Torres told me "the cost to meter a six inch line is extremely high, and since no fire hydrants on the roadsides are metered, you don't have to meter it either."  Great that it was an option to not meter it.

Since 2001, my private unmetered fire hydrant has served the community by providing fire protection as required by insurance companies within "300 metres of a fire hydrant".  Two hydrants--one west, one east--of me are located 7/10 km (700 metres, 2,300 feet apart), with the eastern one at Ed Lane's roadfront; the west hydrant is at Randy Smith's roadfront.  My hydrant is almost in the middle, evidencing that mine also "serves the community".  Insurance companies measure distances "how the crow flies".

A fact remains:  No hydrants are metered, public or private.  None then, none now.

The Highlands Golf unmetered "private" fire hydrant
Now for the rate sheets.
On page 11 of these 14 pages, scroll down to number 8, Fire Hydrants.  See the next 2 lines?  Utility charge to fire departments for 150mm hydrants and also 50mm hydrants.  Note the ZERO dollars per annum?  I found that strange.  Why?  Because I could've sworn (and probably did!) that the previous year's rate sheet (or was it the year before that?  I don't recall) included a dollar charge to fire departments for 150mm and 50mm hydrants.  The amount $195 comes to mind, but who knows what the actual amount was...last year's rate sheets are gone from the RDNO website.  Same with the year before that.  So much for transparency.

About a year ago, two things happened:  I saw that the 2014 rate for the fire hydrant was going from $470 to $560!!!!  Five hundred and sixty dollars!!!!  Obviously these gouging rates had no end in the regional district's unquenchable thirst for revenue for the water authority.
The second thing is basically just coincidence and, at this time, the two contributors won't be identified as they also own "unmetered private fire hydrants" (reason will be clear later).

Imagine my surprise when Stranger No. 1 said to me:  "no, I've never received 'penny-one' of an invoice for our private unmetered fire hydrants (plural) in, oh, 20 years or so."

Stranger No.2 mirrored that with:  "never received an invoice for ours in all these years, from either the City of Vernon or the Regional District".

Well, blow me down and call me Dusty!

Recalling that my lifelong role model was Maya Angelou whose motto has always been: "don't complain...PROTEST!", I set to work.

On September 17, 2013, I sent an invoice to the Regional District of North Okanagan.
Subject:  "Charged in error, annual utilities invoice, private unmetered fire hydrant"
On it, I listed dollar amounts from 2012 back to 2002, for a total of $3,382.72.

On September 18, 2013, I received an email from Dale McTaggart, engineering at the Regional District stating that "$472.29 is correctly billed."

He also stated (pay attention...ahem...):

"We currently bill 17 individual customers with a breakdown as follows:
1 - 75 mm unmetered main
2 - 100mm unmetered main
8 - 150mm unmetered main
1 - 200mm unmetered main
1 - 250mm unmetered main
4 - 150mm unmetered hydrant

Plus we bill the municipalities:

District of Coldstream: 327 - 150mm hydrants
City of Vernon:  1193 - 150mm hydrants and 6 - 50mm hydrants
Areas B & C:  73 - 150 mm hydrants and 9 - 50mm hydrants"

He closed with a whammy"We thank you for bringing forward that several properties may not be paying their appropriate fees in accordance with the Bylaws and we are currently researching our current data base and record plans to identify these properties not being billed under Section 7.  Properties that have been missed will be billed prior to year end."

...I'm inclined to summarize that paragraph as "buggered if I do, and buggered if I don't", but...

Remember the phrase 17 individual customers...

Not feeling defeated (yet), it occurred to me to legally donate my fire hydrant to Coldstream.
Talking to surveyor Jason Shortt, he reminded me that I need to get the permission of the receiver of that receive it.  Oh, OK.

I contacted Fire Chief Shane Code of Coldstream that I wanted to donate my hydrant, asset value $13,000 to the fire department, because the hydrant serves the community, not just my own residence.
Shane responded thusly:  "the fire department can't receive the donation of the hydrant, but I'll forward your request to the municipal office for reply."

Several days later,  I received this from Michael Baker, director of engineering services at Coldstream:

"I have been asked to respond to your request to donate the private hydrant located on Highlands Golf Course.  I have reviewed the situation and discussed issues with officials in our office as well as at the RDNO.  I offer the following:

- As you may be aware, the District of Coldstream does not own the water system or any of the public fire hydrants on this system.  Any donation, if accepted, would have to be to Greater Vernon Water.
- My understanding is that the fee is charged because the private hydrant is not metered.  I believe you have the option of metering and paying the associated fees.
- Upon review of the file history, it appears that the hydrant was required by RDNO building officials as a condition of either rezoning or development permit.  If GVW was to accept the donation, the hydrant would either need to be moved to public property (not permitted if it was a DP requirement) or a Right of Way would need to be granted over the Highlands property to access the hydrant.  I do not believe GVW would be interested in acquiring the additional works into the water system.
As stated above, the District of Coldstream cannot accept your offer to donate a private hydrant to the municipality at this time....I have also copied Zee Marcolin, Manager - Greater Vernon Water....Michael Baker, A.Sc.T. Director of Engineering Services, District of Coldstream"

So...on April 23, 2014, I sent my offer to donate the Highlands Golf fire hydrant to "Directors, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, re:  I ask Directors' permission to donate my private fire hydrant (via right-of-way, registered at Land Titles) to GVW as the annual tax has become very onerous.
Annual taxes on the hydrant have totalled approximately $4,000 in 12 years.  The last few years, the tax was $475, however the new rate schedule indicates that the tax has increased to $560.  To be frank, that is equivalent to 56 golfers (after-tax dollars)."

The Regional District's Paddy Juniper advised that it would be included in the Regional District's July 3rd Agenda for the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee...reference to my document is located on page  3 of 49, item 6.  The "report" from engineering re my donation request and rate challenge is located on page 47 through 49(Remember when I asked readers to remember the phrase 17 customers?  Read it and see if you find the discrepancy in Dale McTaggart's report.) 

Like anyone or any project that needs to be explained to various decision-makers--and in this case, the diverse group of elected officials known as the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee--I took the liberty of calling them to explain my issue.  After leaving a quick--but thorough overview--of my proposal on numerous answering machines, a few called me back to ask questions, but nada from most of 'em.

Mayor Sawatzky of Vernon was one of a few that returned my call, asking "what do you get for that annual tax?"  I was almost stumped with that one.  "Nothing" I replied.  

Let's deal with the discrepancy (ies) in McTaggart's June 18th, 2014 report to the GVAC directors:

"Following discussion, the following recommendation was passed":  no record of who said what.

"That it be recommended to the Board of Directors, staff be directed to report back to the Committee on the number of private hydrants that exist and the breakdown of costs."  No such breakdown of costs have been provided, i.e. how much do munis and cities/fire departments pay per hydrant if I'm paying $560?  Where is the transparency?

"Staff advise that the number of existing unmetered fire mains in use on the Greater Vernon Water Utility system number approximately 123."   One hundred twenty-three?????  What happened to 17?  Seventeen from the same author in his September 18, 2013 email to me?  Does that mean that 106 customers had been missed, further aggravating the inequity?  Or is it that the number 123--and the revenue that represents--is an easier "sell" to GVAC directors to deny my donation request (than 17 would be?)  One can only surmise the reason.

"Schedule 4.d Unmetered feee where metering IS possible (added to Infrastructure Base Fee), etc. etc."  What the heck is THAT schedule doing in a report?  It talks about unmetered water consumption, which has nothing to do with my fire hydrant!  There is no consumption!  

"The majority of private fire hydrants are set back a considerable distance from the road and to fight a fire on an adjacent property a public fire hydrant would typically be used."  What a bunch of hooey, as my fire hydrant is 60 metres from the front door of my west neighbour (versus the closest public hydrant being 300 metres west of him).  

"An option....would be to ... install a water meter and pay a base infrastructure fee and consumption rate for water supply availability.  While this may provide a net savings to those properties that have an unmetered fire main and only use minor volumes of water, staff note that the cost to supply water to an unmetered fire main is not known at this time."  More hooey, what the heck is the reference to 'only use minor volumes of water' ... my hydrant has never been used for anything!  as to cost to supply water to an unmetered fire main, wouldn't the cost be the same as supplying water to a public fire main, also unmetered?  Is all this diatribe intended to pull the wool over directors' eyes which--by now--are probably glazed over?  There is NO consumption.  Nor are hydrants on roads metered!  So what's with the ongoing emphasis on metering a hydrant?  None are metered!  That's why it was optional when I constructed mine.  

"Staff recommend ... no benefit to GVW customers to assume ownership of private fire hydrants."  Only a bureaucrat wouldn't see the benefit to customers of getting a $13,000 asset donated.  Allow me to remind you:  The customers wouldn't have had to pay $13,000 to construct it because I did.

Private--or public--fire hydrants are INFRASTRUCTURE, but seems I'm the only one who knows it!

Following an expression of my frustration to a Coldstream councillor, it was recommended that I reapply to donate it to Coldstream.

At about this same time, Councillors Kiss and Besso had been attempting to find out on my behalf what Coldstream pays per hydrant to GVW, since neither the GVW rate sheet (as mentioned earlier) includes that (transparency) amount any more, nor--you've likely noticed by now--was the amount ever disclosed to directors at the GVAC meeting.  At long last, Councillor Besso stated she had received an amount from Trevor Seibel at Coldstream.  Coldstream's 327 hydrants attract a charge of $42,918.75, or $131.25 each!  Finally!  A dollar amount per hydrant.  $131.25 while I pay $560.00 this year!
Thank you to Gyula and Maria for their efforts to lift the veil of secrecy.  

So on July 10, 2014 I did just that, and was advised that my donation request--this time (again) to Coldstream would be heard at the July 28th, 2014 Council meeting as Item 7 c, and include a Report from their Engineer, Mike Baker. 

So let's now deal with Mike Baker's "report" to Council on my donation request:

"Coldstream ... has no authority to accept a donated hydrant."  My request of Council was for them to feel they have the responsibility to recognize that the Highlands hydrant is indeed part of Coldstream's infrastructure, and deserving of procedural fairness so lacking in GVW's policies and rates.

"There is a hydrant approximately 180m to the east of Highlands Golf Course and one approximately 550m to the west....the private Highlands hydrant does not cover any additional residential properties that these two hydrants do not cover.  The private hydrant could be removed with no adverse effects to the surrounding properties other than Highlands Golf."  Patently untrue that it doesn't cover any additional properties.  My hydrant is 60 metres from the west neighbour's house; does Baker really believe that the fire department is going to drag hoses from the neighbour's closest hydrant on his west 300 metres away when mine is 60 metres from the house?  If my fire hydrant weren't there, the distance between the hydrant east of me to the hydrant west of me is seven-tenths of a kilometre (approx 2,300 feet).  point is that my hydrant WAS considered infrastructure, that's why the next hydrant west is so far away.  Even Baker's own math proves that!

"GVW owns the hydrants with the local municipality paying for the yearly maintenance of the hydrants.  There are no annual fees paid by member municipalities for the public fire hydrants."  Didn't RDNO say that they don't own the hydrants?  Only that they supply water to them?  

"Fire hydrants can be metered..."  Sheesh...but they weren't then, and aren't now?  And it wasn't compulsory for mine to be metered!  

"The rational(sic) for charging for an unmetered hydrant is that GVW has no means of knowing if a private hydrant is being used for alternate purposes (such as driveway cleaning) as well as they have limited control over the maintenance of the hydrant, which may lead to leakage and lost water."  Oh for heaven's sake, didn't I prove that GVW/NOWA officials inspected the construction and close-in of the hole, then tested it?  If those GVW employees doing the across-road construction haven't created leaks on their public projects why would they have created leaks on mine? 

Baker's last point is grasping at straws.

"If a hydrant is public the location and even existence of any hydrant becomes a political (regional as it is GVW) and/or operational issue".   As though GVW or Coldstream would ever remove a hydrant! 

At the close of Coldstream's council meeting, it was suggested that I reapply to GVW for fairer rates/fees after I've convinced directors that my private hydrant is part of infrastructure and should also attract the same annual charge of $131.25 versus the current $560.00.  That's yet to happen...but I did say if my charge for the hydrant was $131.25, that they'd never hear from me again.

But punitive and discriminatory policies at GVW aren't going away by themselves, even if it's written into a Bylaw.
Maybe the issue should go to the Ombudsman.

Signed by all 123 private hydrant owners.
Or was it 17?

While on the topic of Greater Vernon Water, you'll likely be wondering where the much-touted Communication Program--in a lead-up to this November's $70 million borrowing referendum--is hiding.  You can see the plan here on pages 7 through 13.

Councillor Gyula Kiss has seen through the thick fog that surrounds the new Master Water Plan.
Here's his review:

 "Why was $68 million collected for Master Water Plan infrastructure when the approved borrowing was for $35 million and the cost of the borrrowed money to date is only about $15 million?  That is an average overcharge of over $6.5 million per year (to users).  $6.5 million cold have financed an additional $90 million borrowing.  That was direct cash out of the customers' pockets.  And no future customer will contribute to that $53 million collected from us beyond the approved borrowing."

Wonder if anyone will answer.

Heck, wonder if anyone will ask other than Gyula Kiss.

"That fire hydrant stuff put me to sleep," admits Kia.

That's what officials are probably counting on.