Saturday, February 27, 2016

When the "Medicine" is Worse than the Disease

We've all heard those brutal TV commercial warnings related to pharmaceuticals..."may cause liver failure, temporary loss of sight, loss of balance, incontinence..."

Makes me wonder why anyone would ingest the stuff.
Or why doctors would prescribe it (but that's another story entirely).

But that's the way of LLC, limited liability companies, who seek to have the public volunteer to become the company's test subjects...this time (with the LLC designation) without the responsibility of being sued for the often accompanying unacceptable and debilitating effects of the medication. 

It's not a big leap to move from medicine to water treatment.

Let's consider water disinfection and its byproducts (DBPs).

"Adding chloramine to the water supply may
 increase exposure to lead in drinking water,
 especially in areas with older housing...
this exposure can result in
 increased lead levels in the bloodstream,
 which may pose a significant health risk."  Wikipedia.

Disinfection byproducts are the "medication" that results from treating a surface water system, most notably Dangerous Duteau, (Jan.31/15 blog story), even though Mission Hill treatment plant also treats water (but not often from the Duteau source).

The "medication" may be
 worse than the disease...(unfiltered water)

If Greater Vernon Water officials and bureaucrats don't appear to care, one would think--indeed hope--that Interior Health would care what DBPs we're exposed to as they're mostly carcinogenic.
But that's not the case...just as long as the water utility is "heading toward a 4-3-2-1-0 treatment regime".

The "medication" may be worse than the disease.
The disease is unfiltered water!

Consider chloramine, used as a disinfectant for water because it's less aggressive than chlorine and more stable.

But look at the risks of using it to treat water.
Especially if you live in an older home...

"Such compounds have been identified as carcinogens and in 1979 the United States Environmental Protection Agency began regulating their levels in U.S. drinking water.
Some of the unregulated byproducts may possibly pose greater health risks than the regulated chemicals.
Adding chloramine to the water supply may increase exposure to lead in drinking water, especially in areas with older housing; this exposure can result in increased lead levels in the bloodstream, which may pose a significant health risk. 
The bottom half of the Wikipedia link is most interesting.


"Does the water utility care for those customers who live in older homes?" asks Kia.

Ya think?
They'd get off Scot-free (even without the LLC) by asking if we use Teflon-lined pans.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tier Tears

...tears that flow from eyes.

While GVW bureaucrats and GVAC directors blather on (see "Top Hat" blog story of today) about the 2 per cent GVW water rate increase -- which may in effect now come in as high as 9 or 10 per cent -- the juxtaposition of another Morning Star story in the same issue was almost laughable.

That is, if it hadn't been so sad.

What a difference in water rates is found 13 miles (21 kilometres) away!

Armstrong residents pay $113.83 per year for water.

GVW customers pay $101.80 per quarter!  for no consumption!

Today's story on Armstrong's water rates stated "we used to pay an average of $155 a year for water, the average under this (plan) will be $113.83.  That's quite a difference compared to $155," stated Armstrong councillor Shirley Fowler.

Holy crow!  We GVW customers pay $101.80 PER QUARTER IN BASE FEES ALONE!  no consumption included!

And tiers?  Armstrong continues to allow for 360 cubic metres of consumption at the lowest rate tier for both billing periods combined," stated Terry Martens of the city.

"Chris Pieper for mayor of Vernon and Coldstream, as well as GVAC chair/director and Board member," suggests Kia.

That's not the first time that's been suggested either...
Are you listening, GVW and GVAC and Board and Mayors????  

Thirteen miles might as well be in another solar system if we're talking about water rates!  


A recent letter to the editor has prompted a terse reply from Coldstream's Gyula Kiss, who sets the record straight!

The above letter was published in the Morning Star on February 21, 2016. The following is my response to that letter.

"Nice to see that someone appreciates my efforts of trying to make sense of the MWP! Unfortunately, I cannot take all the credit for the defeat of the referendum last November. The writer may remember that there were two members of GVAC who voted against both the MWP and taking it to referendum. The rest of the GVAC members supported the plan and sent it to public scrutiny. Staff and consultants put forward their best efforts to convince the public to vote “yes”.

During the election campaign something changed. Most of the candidates running for office declared that they no longer supported the referendum and they would vote against it. Why did these candidates change their minds? Did they receive additional information on the plan? If they could share this new information with the members of SAC it would make their work a lot easier." 

The only two sitting Directors on GVAC who remained supporters of the referendum were those who were acclaimed without having to campaign. Oddly, those are the only two Directors who are NOT customers of the GVWU and do not pay for the MWP.

You mention using cash-basis to cover the costs of the MWP budget. That is exactly what staff had been doing since the 2004 referendum. Ratepayers approved the borrowing of $35 M for the MWP yet we spent over $66 M by 2012. Where did the extra cash come from? It came from direct cash extraction from ratepayers. This was against the spirit of the referendum as this cash is not shared by future ratepayers. If staff needed $66 M they should have asked for a loan approval of $66 M not $35 M.

The DCWTP was not recommended by the Consultants of MWP 2002. In fact, they declared the current plan a waste of money. Which consultants were right? Judging from the results the 2002 consultants were right.

Adding a filtration plant to Duteau was not mentioned in the 2004 MWP Addendum. That was kept a secret for fear of rejection of such large referendum bill.

The cost of borrowing $35 M is about $2.4 M annually. This represents about 12% of the total budget of $19.6 M. Feet dragging is not the cause of the high bills: the cause is the high cost of operation and maintenance of the triple  water system. We now operate the Kalamalka Lake system, the old VID system with the domestic quality irrigation water and the new raw water irrigation system built by the ratepayers of GVWU. Those are the sources of the high water cost. Ad to this the cost of the two filtration plants in the plans along with their operation costs and you’ll see where we are heading with water rates.

One would hope these high water costs are shared equally by all customers. Not a chance! The majority of RDNO Directors just approved the rates for 2016. Domestic customers will continue to subsidize ICI customers for over $2.5 M for 2016. If subsidies are necessary than the entire community should contribute through a RDNO Function. As it is only domestic water customers participate in this subsidy. The two Directors who fought hard for this subsidy are not participating in the costs. Easy to tell others to pay if you do not have to do the paying yourself!

So these are just some of the facts. There are lot more but let’s leave those for another occasion.

Writing a letter to the editor is easy. Writing a factual letter is a whole lot more difficult.
Some of you may wonder how the $2.5 M subsidy above was arrived at. Here is a quick summary:

Budget requirement for 2016:     $19,600,000
Agriculture contribution:              $     783,799
Needed from domestic:              $18,712,520
Expected water sales:                   5,820,000 m3
Cost of 1 m3 of water:                  $3.22
Water consumption ICI                   1,580,000 m3
Expected revenue    @ $3.22      $  5,080,000
Subsidized revenue @ $1.58       $  2,496,400
Difference (subsidy)                 $  2,583,631

These are real, hard figures calculated from the data provided by staff. We can manipulated anyway we wish but the real facts are these. Anyone who gets his/her water for less than $3.22 per m3 is being subsidized. The base fee of $408/a in real term is the value of 126.71 m3 of water. In other words we pay for 126.71 m3 of water without getting a drop.

Only (residential) water customers are forced to subsidize ICI customers.

The annual repayment of borrowing costs us 898,470 cubic meters of water. Every item in the budget can be expressed in terms of unit cost of water ($3.22 per m3). Employees' wages: every $10,000 costs 3,106 m3. Thus, if we subsidize anyone we force the rest of the customers to pay more than their fair share of those costs.

Mr. Kiss is absolutely correct!  
Kia offers a suggestion for letter writers:


Top Hats

UPDATE:  Vernon councillor and GVAC director Bob Spiers, thankfully, clarified the story with this:
  • The change at GVAC was to maintain the spread between the non Domestic Rate of 1.53 (in 2015) and 2.19 Residential above 80m3 rate (2015 Rate) which is 66 cents lower for non Domestic Customers. (Business,Institutional and Industrial.) 
  • The rate change as originally passed by GVAC maintained this difference at a  1.67 vs 2.32 = 65 cents. )
  • The rate change as revised at RDNO increased this difference  at a  1.58 vs 2.37 = 79 cents
At the Special May Rates meetings GVAC will have to discuss the direction of this difference and how fast to equalize the NON Domestic and the Residential Rates. Agricultural rates will also be a source of discussion.

Here was the blog's initial response to the cloudy, confusing story:

How many hats can GVAC Directors and RDNO Board members don?

Get a load of this entirely confuddled and confusing story, with blog comments bolded.
In other words, what does this newspaper story say?

Morning Star website by Rolke February 25/16:

"Directors take Greater Vernon water rates in a new direction:

Greater Vernon's water rates structure has been reversed and that has some politicians boiling.  (reversed?  so there isn't a 2 pct water rate increase this year?  yipppeeee!)

Instead of adopting a recommended rates structure from the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, the Regional District of North Okanagan board voted to change the terms of the bylaw.  (change the terms?  or the rates?)

"The spread between residential and commercial customers becomes larger," said Akbal Mund, who, along with director Bob Spiers, opposed adoption.  (if rates increased equally as bureaucrats had proposed, why would the spread change?)

"There are more residential costumers(sic) than commercial so we are penalizing residential."  (Ah...a hint that residential rates got hit, and other rates didn't?  Oh, and costumers is probably more accurate than customers in this charade.  Hiding behind costumes?)

The rate changes adopted Wednesday include:  (but obviously aren't limited to?...)
Domestic use from 40 to 80 cubic metres $ 1.59 to $ 1.58
Domestic use >80 cubic metres $2.32 to $2.37
Non domestic $ 1.67 to $1.58  (so...if there's a spread as was stated earlier, where is the spread if domestic and non domestic are $1.58? Unless of course non domestic pays $1.58 from 1 cubic metre).

GVAC had recently gone against a staff report (the ubiquitous GVW bureaucrats) on rates and that was a mistake, says director Bob Fleming, who also sits at GVAC.  (Also sits at GVAC? yup, the sentence says 'director Bob Fleming'!  He also sits on the Board!)  (Fleming isn't even a GVW customer; neither is Macnabb --both are on wells--yet they're deciding on what water users will pay...gone against a staff report?)

"The staff proposal was well thought-out and was created to keep the changes to an overall minimum, a two per cent increase to rates," he said.

However, Fleming says members of GVAC amended the staff proposal (Didn't the Morning Star story just say the Board amended the rates?)

"We didn't have time to consider the implications.  The main result is higher water users pay substantially more -- 9 to 10 per cent.  It skewed things," he said (Skewed? screwed.)

As a result, Fleming (the GVAC director) introduced a motion Wednesday (at a Board meeting? where he's a board member?) to amend the GVAC recommendation to reflect the original staff proposal (of 2 per cent straight across?)

Only Greater Vernon directors voted on the motion Wednesday (but wasn't it the Board?)

Mund denies the GVAC recommendation was based on a lack of details.  "The information is there," he said."

Spiers insists there shouldn't be a difference between how residential, commercial and industrial water users are treated.  "With a drop of potable water, you should pay the same," adding that a residential customer using more than 80 cubic metres will see the cost climb 8 per cent."  (what about the earlier calculated '9 to 10 per cent?')

"you want to talk about rate shock, that's what you got."  (No I don't want to talk about rate shock, but that's just me).

A process will begin in May to review rates.  (Huh?  A rate review 3 months from now?  Will everyone have new batteries in their calculators by then?  Including the Morning Star?)

"We need the context and the implications.  Rates may go up and they may go down but there needs to be a discussion," said director Mike Macnabb (up or down?  says the director who is also a Board member, and who is also on a well?)

"Another water rate discussion?" asks Kia adding "Jeezzuzz!"

over-governance in the North Okanagan?

  • GVW's proposed 2016 water rates here.
  • G. Kiss water rate changes 2003 to 2014 here.

And thrown in for good measure: B.C.'s new Water Sustainability Act's Fees and Rental Schedule.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dangling Modifier?

I really, really wish these people had had my English teacher!

Today's Morning Star featured a story by Rolke:
"Coldstream reduces agricultural tax burden"


At first blush, that quickly-read heading denotes that Coldstream municipality had too much work squirreling away all the property tax money from the agricultural sector in this area.

Which, I suppose, is a little correct.
Only a little.

The heading should've read:  "Coldstream reduces property tax burden for agriculture"

It's a win-win for all farms in Coldstream, who had been paying about twice what other areas' property taxes were for the Farm Class 9 assessment (all things being equal, i.e. mill rates set independently by each community).  Classes are set as a multiplier of the Class 1, residential rate.

B.C. Assessment's details regarding how farm lands are assessed is here.
Buildings on that farm land are assessed differently (actual value).

Coldstream's Class 9 farm assessments were a tax multiplier (to residential) of 4.5 to 1.
They will now be 2.4 to 1.

It all depends on what mill rates (cost per thousand dollars of the assessed value) will be determined by Coldstream.

Hey, wait a minute.
When we farmed our 15 acre property, the assessed land value was puny, miniscule, paltry, measly, trivial compared to what the land was actually worth (farming or no farming); proof is what the land is now assessed at since we converted to a par-3 golf course.

So the puny, miniscule, paltry, measly farmland properties will now have their multipliers reduced by almost half?


"Why don't communities simply offer NO TAX on farm lands?" questions Kia.

Double-dipping aside.

Oh, and then there are farm water rates...
nearly free as well.

Triple-dipping then.
No dangling modifier there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

50-40-10 Funding Split?

If the District of Coldstream's requested infrastructure funding split of 50 Federal, 40 Provincial and 10 Municipal actually sees the light of day, it certainly won't be called a P3 given the ratios.

Seems everybody has to chip in a higher amount, including residents (3.5 per cent 2016 tax increase).

But the District of Coldstream is balking at having to pay 1/3 of any typical P3 project.

They don't see a need to actually reduce their budget to reflect increased construction costs and tough economic times.

While some of the listed projects point back to Mr. Harper's reign, presumably Mr. Trudeau's infrastructure renewal plan is being rolled out.

About halfway down this page are projects that are likely to receive grant funding.

Narrowing their chances of any successful Coldstream grant applications is the District of Coldstream's desire to only pay 10 per cent, after suggesting the Feds pay 50 per cent, and the provincial government 40 per cent.

With more bravado than brains, the District of Coldstream last night considered:

"Build Canada Grant Funding

THAT the following motion be forwarded to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities with copies to Mel Arnold, MP for the North Okanagan-Shuswap, and Eric Foster, MLA for Vernon Monashee:

WHEREAS the Federal Government's Build Canada grant program generally shares the costs of all approved infrastructure projects equally between the province and the local jurisdiction at one third each;

AND WHEREAS for nationally and provincially significant projects, where projects provide a greater national and provincial benefit, and where communities are disproportionately and directly impacted by such projects, the burden of one-third of the cost is inequitable and too high for the local jurisdiction;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Federal Government's Build Canada grant program, National Infrastructure Component, be amended to fund a minimum of 50% of the project cost;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the provincial funding contribution for significant projects be a minimum of 40% of the project cost." 

Yes, depository is mispelled...but that's not the issue.

"Considering the area voted to remain a Conservative riding," says Kia, "it's probably unwise to demand P3 changes to the Province or Feds."

Nope...slip bravado through slot in door, though they'd probably both fit.


Golf Course Mower Job Vacancy

Required:  around mid-March:

Golf Course Mower Operator
Do you love golf and working outdoors with little supervision?
Are you fit? Personable with customers?

~25-30 hrs/wk (flex hours) starting approx. mid-March.
Prefer experience, but can train the right person.
Modern ride-on machines.  $13.00/hr. while training.

Highlands Golf on Buchanan Road is 10 minutes east of Vernon.
Must have reliable transportation.  No phone calls please.

 Golf Course Mower Job Vacancy

Come enjoy great customers, savour the fresh air, have lunch on the sunniest patio around, and be appreciated for your contribution.

Looking forward to having you aboard...

Neverending Unelected Committees

...that impact Greater Vernon's water customers.

So here's another one:  The Canadian Water Resources Association, comprising "a national organization of individuals and organizations from the public, private and academic sectors that are committed to raising awareness of the value of water, and to promoting responsible and effective water resource management in Canada."

"...a moratorium on new water licenses."

That's fine, but:  " The majority of events are held in the Lower Mainland, where most of our members are based, but we also host events in smaller venues as well as online."

"30 different pharmaceuticals have been identified
 in Canadian drinking water..."  

There was a recent workshop, the details of which are not available on their website. "...promote awareness of Canadian and international water resource management through education and interdisciplinary collaboration."

Perhaps the next paragraph is proof of their "main goal". 

"The B.C. branch of the CWRA has recently called for a moratorium on new water licenses in the Okanagan until its recommendations are acted upon.

The work of the Okanagan Basin Water Board is closely linked to an initiative of the Okanagan Partnership (OP).  This is a coalition of business, education and governments promoting sustainable growth and strengthening regional competitiveness.  The three regional districts are also partners."

Ah, yes...yet another unelected group of people whose decisions affect our lives!  Especially since they're "closely linked to...OBWB initiative".

The B.C. branch's 55-page "Book of Abstracts" from their two-day 2015 conference in Richmond is here.   Its Session 2 dealt with Climate, Water and Agriculture.

Page 8 of its 55 pages states:  

"Drought response policies ameliorate the conflict and impacts from water shortages by establishing the responses available to communities during and immediately following a drought. In establishing responses, governments regularly make trade offs between top down and bottom up approaches. Governments, for example, may establish rules for imposing explicit water use restrictions or enable alternative water allocation approaches during water shortages. Each of these approaches imposes a cost on society in exchange for a reduction in the likelihood of future water conflict. Historically, however, governments have set drought response policies with little reference to water user preferences, particularly farmers." 

Page 26 of their Book of Abstracts may be the most shocking, as "30 different pharmaceuticals have been identified in Canadian drinking water..."
And we in the GVW area were worried about high levels of Trihalomethanes and Haloacetic Acids!  

"We are fortunate to have an abundance of fresh water," stated on page 30, "but the various demands for this resource are not managed to reflect its true value and vulnerabilities."

Page 33 discusses acute gastrointestinal diseases in municipal surface water drinking systems.  Page 34 lists additional topics.

Note the speaker biographies to acronym-heavy group memberships.  

"Raising awareness?" asks Kia, adding "their demand for a moratorium on new water licenses in the Okanagan sounds like they're looking for work in the Okanagan."

They'll likely receive it too.


Vernon Not Open For Business

as reported on Castanet website, Kate Bouey Feb. 23/16:

Vernon is not open for business, according to a Chamber of Commerce-backed group representing developers and other groups in the construction industry.

The group, calling itself the Big Red committee, is urging the city to speed up efforts to ensure that housing is attainable for young families.

"out of this world water/sewer rates..."
Poster/commenter 'Spirit Rider'

“This is the most significant issue we are facing,” spokesperson Pam Owen told council on Monday, referring to the high price of a single family home in the Vernon area. “The simple truth is that the average family can`t afford the price of an average home that is on the market.”

Owen pointed to high development cost charges, for things like sewer hookups and sidewalks, that are charged to the developer and passed on to the buyer.

“We are hearing from many in the residential construction sector that land use regulations, along with development fees, are contributing to the high cost of land and putting home ownership out of the reach for average families,” Owen said.

She said construction of single homes, especially in the $350,000 range, should be close to double the 234 housing starts reported in 2014.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce claims that new home construction last year generated almost $50 million in wages and close to 800 on and off-site jobs in the Vernon area.

“There is growing frustration,” said Phil Dyck, a chamber director. “Cut the red tape and streamline the development process.”

He called for a complete review of development cost charges and for a package of incentives for developers.

The group also called on the city to host an attainable housing and economic development forum to bring industry, city administration, and economic development officials together.

“You're holding our feet to the fire and I thank you for that,” said Coun. Brian Quiring, an architect, adding that council was working hard to improve the process.

“We are trying to get building permits out in three weeks. We're looking at trying to reduce off-site costs to help projects move along,” said Quiring. “Administration is trying to streamline the process as best we can,” he said, adding the city “will not sacrifice service for timing.”

Quiring also praised city staff. “We're not perfect but we have a great staff. We appreciate you being here as there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

"I heard 'we're not open for business'. Tell me what that means," said Mayor Akbal Mund, following the council meeting, adding that he is willing to sit down with developers to discuss their concerns.

"I'm not saying we're perfect but when you are one of the fastest growing communities that means people are coming here," said Mund. 

1 Comment:  Spirit RiderThen these lower income homes will be hit with high taxes , out this world Water/Sewer rates along with increases for any pie in the sky project city council feels the city needs......people really have to check and compare the city of Vernon rates , other areas are a lot better deal ! 

Vernon's Mayor is already there...

"One of the fastest growing communities?" scorns Kia, adding "if you believe a population increase of 0.13% qualifies!"

Nonsense, as proven at this link from B.C. Business
And Vernon isn't even listed in this link from Top 10 Towns, Western Investor.

One might be forgiven for wondering if Vernon's Mayor Mund gets his info from "Dreamland".

Idea:  Considering that Mayor Mund serves on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, he could spend his time in a Highway 97S booth and do Exit Interviews with people heading south!