Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wink-Wink, Nudge-Nudge Almost Over

Greater Vernon Water's Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) meetings are almost at an end.
At the bottom of this blog entry is a summary of the process from Gyula Kiss.  It is also featured on his blog in an article dated March 29th.

Meetings are almost at an end.
And so are the sidelong glances.
The sweaty brows of consultants as they furtively eye their bureaucrat bosses.

So much for the Master Water Plan review!

Sidelong glances?

The biased charade known as the water Review includes the following:

You decide between whom the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, and sidelong glances occur!

The next meeting is slated for 8 a.m. Thursday, March 31st at the Regional District boardroom.

"Bring your own sidelong glances," suggests Kia.

All to protect Sacred Duteau...

You know Duteau...the water treatment plant whose winter treatment costs are $363 per Megalitre (versus $83 at Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant.

This from Gyula Kiss:

Comments on the GVWU’s Stakeholders Advisory Committee

The mandate of the Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC), appointed by RDNO Board of Directors for the review of the Master Water Plan (MWP) is nearing its end. During its existence members were bombarded by staff approved information regarding the options of the MWP. There was no input allowed from anyone with differing views. The process could have been better if open discussions between those supporting and those questioning the proposal were allowed.

The entire reason for the creation of the SAC was that some politicians rejected the proposed MWP prior to the referendum. Nearly all politicians stated publicly during the 2014 election campaign that they would vote “NO” on the borrowing referendum. That in itself indicated that not everything was right with the plan. Yet no dissenting voice is allowed to be heard by SAC members nor do we allow an independent reviewer.

SAC Committee members, average citizens,  were unfamiliar with the issues at hand. They needed all the available information for and against the MWP’s complicated options. They also needed some background information which led to the “need” for a MWP. This they did not receive. The Board of Directors decided that only existing consultants and staff would be allowed to provide information that they themselves would choose to this uninformed Committee to consider. Imagine what they retained from the meetings! Could they arrive at a balanced conclusion?

As the political representative on the MWP Technical Committee I am very familiar with all aspects of both Master Water Plans (yes, there were two: MWP 2002 and the current proposal!). As an elected representative of the taxpayers my only interest (some refer to it as “bias”) is to see the development of the most cost effective MWP that will serve the Greater Vernon area now and for the future. I not alone questioning the wisdom of filtering water to be used for crop irrigation.  My input and questions to the consultants could have helped SAC members to have a balanced view of the issues. They did not have to accept my views but they should have had an opportunity to hear them.

Taxpayers and SAC members may legitimately ask the question: If the proposed MWP is the best solution to the water problems of Greater Vernon how would an alternate view point hurt it? Staff and consultants should be happy to prove once and for all that they have a winner and opposing concerns are unjustified. Having denied an opportunity to raise critical questions diminishes the value of the SAC exercise and will cast a shadow on whatever conclusions will be provided by the SAC. It will create mistrust in the process.
It would help SAC members to find out why some politicians could not support the MWP. It could also help if they could understand why most politicians stated that they would vote “NO” on the referendum question. Just like SAC members taxpayers in general are asking  those questions.

In future reports I will provide examples of where staff (including consultants) and I differ in our approach to a reliable and more cost effective MWP. If interested look for those reports on my blog (Google coldstreamernews to access the blog).

Gyula Kiss

Gyula Kiss deserves appreciation and effusive thank yous from a beleaguered public on the GVW system!

Friday, March 25, 2016


Greater Vernon Water is sooooo proud, they state frequently, of the redundancy of Duteau Creek Water Treatment plant.

They state their reasons:  when Kal Lake's turbidity levels are too high, the water source can be switched to Duteau from Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant.  When Mission Hill's components fail or software needs upgrading, they can switch to Duteau, preventing downtime. 

When the threatened mussel infestation arrives, the water source will be switched to Duteau as Kal Lake will be fetid and contaminated.

When seismic activity tears open Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant, the water source will be switched to Duteau.

GVW and consultants call that "redundancy".
Most people call it ludicrosity.

Operating costs at DCWTP are nothing short of horrendous, especially during the ~7 months of winter:  $363 for each Megalitre treated, versus Mission Hill's $83 for each Megalitre!

Gives a whole new twist to the phrase carrying costs, doesn't it?

Let's look at the meaning of redundancy:

noun: redundancy
  1. the state of being not or no longer needed or useful.
    "the redundancy of 19th-century heavy plant machinery"
    • the use of words or data that could be omitted without loss of meaning or function; repetition or superfluity of information.
      synonyms:superfluity, unnecessariness, excess
      "redundancy in language"
    • Engineering
      the inclusion of extra components that are not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components.
      "a high degree of redundancy is built into the machinery installation"
    • British
      the state of being no longer employed because there is no more work available.
      plural noun: redundancies
      "the factory's workers face redundancy"
      synonyms:superfluity, unnecessariness, excess
      "redundancy in language"

Duteau Creek is a dog.
Poor source waters that'll be the first affected by a warming climate.
Source waters frequently and continually contaminated by a mud-bogging and recreating public on Crown land.
Incredibly and alarmingly high levels of disinfection byproducts which are just as dangerous to public health as what they are touted to treat.
And other attributes.

Instead of going on and on about Duteau Creek's shortcomings, here's an artistic rendition of the scenario:

Click graphic to enlarge:
Submitted.  Used with permission.  A new twist to the phrase carrying costs   

"But GVW are still in the driver's seat," says Kia.

The redundancy definition says it all.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

One Hand Giveth and the Other Taketh Away

The municipality of Coldstream recently acceded to the wishes of Coldstream Ranch's owner to reduce the property tax multiplier (ratio to residential rate) for the farm properties.

The multiplier for farms (Class 9) was reduced from 4.5 to 1 to 2.5 to 1.
Basically in half.

Then, not a month later, Mayor and Council feigned surprise that agriculture's land values remained where B.C. Assessment had set 1984 land values!

Feigned surprise?
Yup, considering that two councillors (Maclean and Enns) are bona fide farmers!
Plus anyone can access the B.C. Assessment website and search by address, for the land and improvement values for the upcoming year.

As reported in the Morning Star on March 20th, "It seems to me that someone at the provincial level should be deciding that it's time for a provincial review of the land values," said non-farmer councillor Cochrane.

The article continues:  "Land rates range from $50/acre to $2,400/acre in Coldstream." 
You can bet the farm that the $2,400 per acre is not farmland.

"There are 413 properties with farm assessment within Coldstream, with a net value of $9.1 million.  Of those properties, 106 are owned by Coldstream Ranch, with a net value of $3.3 million.

Only $3.3 million?
When the sale price 25-something years ago was rumoured to be $13 million?

"Look up fake surprise in the dictionary; you may see a photo of Coldstream's mayor," chuckles Kia.

Councillors--and farmers--Maclean and Enns have likely stopped chuckling at this point.
And are gazing at their hands.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Loose With Other People's Money

Loose as a goose.

A recent Morning Star story showed a beaming Coldstream mayor, Jim Garlick, handing a cheque to Wilf Mulder of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation.

It's 55 grand.
Taxpayer money.
Originally earmarked for a now-defunct "service" facility, Garlick donated it towards medical equipment versus returning it to taxpayers.

He stated the money is surplus, and that we all use the hospital.

The only holdout on council's approval was Gyula Kiss, who stated "“When you take money from the taxpayer and you get some of it back, they (taxpayer) should enjoy the benefit.”

Exactly, as it doesn't belong to Coldstream to donate.

Someone compared the donation to, for example, Superstore or Save On Foods donating to a charity after having collected the money over a course of several months at their stores.

The only difference between what Garlick and the chainstores did is that in the chainstore case, customers willingly offered the donation to support the charity.  That's not the case with the Municipality of Coldstream...they taxed residents for the service.  And that service is now defunct.

"The goose is too big for his britches," says Kia.

Too generous with our money.
Soon he'll have our britches too.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

El Nino Helping Reservoir Levels?

It does appear that water levels were higher earlier in 2015, perhaps due to El Nino.
The North Okanagan doesn't regularly receive rainfall during the Fall, nor during mild weather mid-winter.  Nice when we get it though...

This chart holds considerable interest for GVW customers, as 19 year averages are mostly comparable to the 10 year average reservoir levels.

(Click the chart to enlarge...)

(Source:  Bob Spiers' vernonblog)

"If only GVW's data on consumption were as comprehensive," says Kia, adding "their data to SAC still lumped together all other consumption outside of Agricultural as 'Domestic', which for many years included the ICI category of Institutional, Commercial, and Industrial."

That's ludicrous from a data standpoint!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Coldstream's Control-Freak Government

Control freaks?
Yup...another phrase for Coldstream's over governance.
Over governance recently reared its ugly head again in Coldstream as the public provided comments on the draft Official Community Plan (OCP), which this blog has unaffectionately termed Official Community Pipedream.

Not mincing words, more than one person has called Coldstream's government "bloody socialist".

Not so blunt--but disapproving nevertheless--are two comments on the topic of riparian area protection.  Provincial legislation declares a 30-metre protection area, whereas Coldstream's new OCP proposed including entire blocks of property!
Property that is privately owned! 

As reported in the paper today, "Efforts to protect riparian areas have stretched too far in Coldstream, according to some upset landowners."

"In my view, this is a massive land grab under the guise of looking after riparian areas," said resident Paul Nixon to council on Monday, as reported in the Morning Star.

Also reported is Bob Weatherill's distaste for the new riparian laws in the community, as he foresees efforts to build a hay shed, for example, as becoming too onerous.  "My concern is cost.  Cost to the muncipality and cost to the homeowner," said Weatherill.

"It's unnecessary and overkill and it ain't rural living at its best," added Nixon.

No kidding!

"You wouldn't mind if government helped pay the bills," chuckled Kia, adding "but they're simply in your face at every turn."

Kinda makes one realize that Trudeau senior forgot to entrench property rights in the Constitution, doesn't it.
Or maybe he did that intentionally.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Official Community Pipedream

Who knew?
Who knew that OCP means official community pipedream instead of official community plan?

I'll spare you reading the 156 page document.

Judging from the following excerpts, it's a bunch of nonsense!

Consider that you're a resident of Saskatchewan or Alberta, wondering whether to retire to Coldstream, so you have a look at the Official Community Plan.
Just to get an idea of what you can--and can't expect on land you may consider purchasing, maybe pass on sloped land for these (page 3) reasons:

Area 1, contains an extensive area of natural grassland, is habitat to several of the identified species and is primarily comprised of steep hillsides. Area 2, contains a minor riparian ecosystem and some areas of steep slopes. Area 3, part of a single title containing ALR and non-ALR lands. Some minor hazard issues related to erosion potential and steep slopes. Contains lands rated as high and very high conservation value. Area 4, a block of land on the eastern edge of Kalamalka Provincial Park. Contains lands rated as high and very high conservation value and has steep slope areas.

Those reasons may impact things you may wish to do on your land.
Unless you're government, that is.
Or a university.
In which case it's A-OK, and the steep slope, erosion and conservation rules don't apply!

Like what's planned on the steep slope, likely to erode pristine lands at the college:  an amphitheatre with seating for 5,500.

So that makes the OCP a pipedream?
Because they'll ignore the steep slope rules and build it.
Because they're government...because they're a university.

But this relegates the OCP to pipedream status:

 "...may not be achieved but are continuously strived(sic) for."

Consider this:
"Local shopping opportunities" page 18
"Good transit services, even light rail"

Shopping?  in a community located 7 minutes from downtown Vernon?
Light rail?

Back to the amphitheatre.

Here are segments of a letter to the editor from Joan Rowan, Concerned Neighbours of Okanagan College, Vernon Campus:

"We believe that this is not a suitable location for the following reasons:  The two large gullies are the only natural habitat left within the enclave bounded by College Way, Kickwillie Loop Road and Highway 97.

The steep slopes of this historic glacial gully are composed of fine textured soils that are subject to erosion due to runoff from the sports complex, the college parking lot and the bypass.  Considerable funds have already been expended to control drainage into and through this gully.

The gully is an ecologically sensitive site comprising steep slopes, sensitive, native bunchgrass cover, with arrow leaf balsam root, prickly pear cactus, and sumac.  It is home to the threatened western gopher (bull) snake and hawks are regularly seen hunting over the open grasslands.

The concept plans for the amphitheatre portray green, grassy slopes all around the amphitheatre where up to 4,500 additional (1,500 in amphitheatre) people can sit.  This would require removing all of the native vegetation and planting irrigated turf on these over-steep, highly erodible slopes.  Access to the amphitheatre for equipment and event staging would be off Kickwillie Loop Road, close to the College Way junction.  This location for an access for large trucks and vans would present considerable safety risks and inconvenience to local traffic..."   Joan Rowan.

Now, look back (above) at Areas 1 - 4 "rules" governed by the Official Community

Remember that you're a resident of Saskatchewan or Alberta considering retiring here...or purchasing acreage.
Consider also just how much bureaucratic interference occurs here in the North Okanagan, and British Columbia generally.

This letter from a Coldstream resident (entitled Controlled Living at its Best, July 8, 2012) will open a prospective resident's eyes...especially if they hail from Saskatchewan or Alberta (where a modicum of self-determination and empowerment still exist).

"...hate bureaucracy and all the nonsense that comes with it."  Jack Welch, former CEO General Electric

Official community pipedream...
with rules that apply to residents, but not government...or universities.