Friday, September 30, 2016

Slow Transformer?

Everybody on GVW's water system has been switched to the Duteau Creek Water Treatment System while a transformer is changed at the Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant.

(click to enlarge):

The switch-over duration is slated for September 28th until October 14th.
Two weeks to change a transformer?

"Typical for Vernon," Kia would've said, "after all, 30th Street--a main thoroughfare--is totally shut down for FOUR months, which places horrendous congestion onto 32nd and 27th Streets."

The 30th Street closure...four months long!

Heaven forbid Vernon would actually do the streetwork at night (like MoT's Hwy 97 work through Kelowna)!

Maybe the local road contractor has a slow transformer too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Dangerous Precedent?

I can count on one hand...perhaps half a hand...the number of times I've disagreed with Vernon councillor Bob Spiers' point of view.

After all, who wouldn't be intrigued by an individual whose tenet is:

 "When an American gets mad, he says "where's my Gun".
 When a Canadian gets pissed off he says
 "Where is my pen, I'm going
to send a  letter to the EDITOR". 
When the EDITOR won't publish his letter he sets up
 his own BLOG page.
 When I received enough support to get a
 Council Seat  the dogma of the establishment became:
 "Better to have him inside the tent pissing out,
 than outside pissing in." (Only time will tell !)"

But today, a little bell rang alarm in my brain as I read the Morning Star's story by Rolke entitled "Casino funds pursued".  

Councillor Spiers, it states, "wants a bigger piece of the action, saying the city should push for 10 per cent of the gross revenue from Lake City Casino's local operation instead of the current 10 per cent of net revenue it receives."

Two million bucks are currently collected by the City of Vernon annually; "but that could climb to $3.5 million if the formula switched to gross revenue."  

Spiers' bone of contention?
"Thirty-four million (gross revenue) goes through the casino and (only) $2 million stays; the rest leaves the community."

Many many people dislike provincial and federal government(s).
Many people are against gambling, stating casinos lead to an addiction for residents, if not community crime itself.
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation is in charge of where casinos exist, how they are operated as well as lease agreements with cities.  The Province also accepts some responsibility for vulnerable individuals and offers "programs" for problem gamblers.

So what's the dangerous precedent?
Well, it's not here yet, but it could be.

As a business owner--albeit private, not owned by government--it occurs to me that a city demanding a share of gross--or net revenue for that matter--is a slippery slope.  

How so?
Consider these:

1.  no government has ever met a tax it didn't like, nor a tax it didn't want to expand to others, if only "in the interests of fair play" (ahem!)
2.  if casinos/gambling are considered addictive and a risk to some individuals in a community, how long until the local government, for example, decides that golf courses (due to their high use of water) are somehow detrimental to a community's well-being?  How long until golf courses must contribute a higher percentage (than they already do...via income tax reporting to Canada Revenue) and contribute a percentage of revenue to a community just because they exist in the community.  Because a few left-leaners have decided the business has some detrimental effects in the community? 

You may scoff.
But guess what?

Years ago a private company/proprietor simply reported annual revenue (as stated above) to Canada Revenue for taxation purposes.  No requirement to report either gross--or net--to the city in which the business was located!  And to some degree, that remains the case (if it were not for the following): 

Unless you're a business owner, you will be surprised (or perhaps not!) to learn the B.C. Assessment Authority has, for quite a few years, been enabled by provincial legislation to ask for--and receive--business gross income, ostensibly to help their assessors determine an accurate value of the business' worth for local property tax categorization.  Prior to that, a private business was just that...private...except for annual Federal reporting requirements.

Could the desire to receive additional casino funds extend to private businesses in that community?

"I wouldn't bet against it," Kia would've said.

Gambling is a lower risk than what we face from insatiable all levels.

Hope you're watching which direction the pissing goes, Bob.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Oh Puhlease, Foster!

Puhlease, forget about coming here, even though it's Home.

Today's Morning Star indicated that as part of the Province's 2017 budget, MLA Foster will be part of an all-party select standing committee on finance and government services that signal the opening of public consultations on the next budget. 

If your windows were open, you'd have heard the collective sigh from resident readers of that article.

The committee "will travel to 14 communities to gather input from residents regarding priorities for the new budget".  Also offered will be video and teleconferencing options for eight other communities.


Don't bother including Vernon in your travels, Eric and committee.

People here are sick and tired of your anti-resident-opinion on the Stickle Road dilemma.  You fell nicely into step (doesn't a shadow always do that?) behind the Ministry of Transportation who firmly believe destroying any part of a 20th Street wetland on which a lot of money has been spent is a prudent decision.

But residents don't agree:

" is a marsh, a sensitive environment,
 many critters live there,
 there is also a creek that runs in there,
 how can it even be
 a consideration to destroy that?"
     D. Chambers, LtE Sept. 21/16

Foster has moaned that some opposition came from people who didn't even attend the ministry-held open houses...yet neither did he, adding ("Had I attended), it would've been all about me...

All about him?
How brazen and condescending from an elected member of this area!

a question to ask Eric Foster, MLA

"While the MoT is destroying the 20th Street marsh, how about bombing that weed-choked eyesore next to the Regional District Office at Hwy 6 and Aberdeen road," suggests Kia.

I think it's a wetland marsh/sanctuary too.

Sanctuary for 3-foot tall noxious weeds and mosquitoes!

So, Foster, skip your visit to Vernon.

For more information on select standing committees, click here.

Double yawn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Acting Locally and Thinking Globally Doesn't Work

Nobody gets the message across any better than Gyula Kiss:

"I remember my mother telling me to eat all the food on my plate because some people in the World are starving. I never understood the logic of such reasoning. How could cleaning up my plate help the starving millions?"

But he's not talking about world hunger in his latest blog installment.
He's talking about water supplies, specifically in the North Okanagan.

"Conserved water will not stay here:
 it goes down to the ocean
 (some of it through Lumby
 with undesirable consequences
 (flooding) at times)."
      G.Kiss, Coldstream councillor

Greater Vernon Water officials last week ... finally ... got around to posting the updated reservoir level, and we'll repeat it here (click to enlarge):

"The following information is important when viewing the above graph:
  •                  Maximum reservoir capacity is 18,300 ML/y - in most years full capacity is achieved;
  •                  Annual agricultural consumption is between 7,000-8,000 ML/y;
  •                  System is designed for 17,000 ML annual consumption. 

Similarly, excessive saving of water when there is plenty of it in our reservoirs is not going to help other users who are not connected to our system.
Using reasonable amounts of water would keep our properties a little greener, reduce our per cubic meter rates (getting more water for the same price--maximizing, without exceeding, the "tier") and keep ratepayers happier.
Conserved water will not stay here: it goes down to the ocean (some of it through Lumby with undesirable consequences (flooding) at times). 

Obviously, when there is a shortage, conservation is important.
That is why Greater Vernon Water developed a Drought Management Plan to ensure conservation is enforced when it needs to be enforced."
GVW's tenet?  OBWB's tenet?

"So why doesn't bureaucracy simply go away when rules don't need to be enforced?" asks Kia rhetorically.

Remove the word 'simply', and I'm all for it... 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rolke: Proofread! Proofread!

The Morning Star's writer Richard Rolke penned the story "climate change response questioned", published September 18th.

The first paragraph states "There are calls for local communities to fight climate change head on, but a Vernon politician is frustrated with that approach."

The story goes on to say "We need co-operation and investment from senior levels of government," Juliette Cunningham, Vernon councillor said.

Here's where Rolke muddied the waters, with another quote by Cunningham:

"We have to allow recreation to co-exist within watersheds.
Recreation should be No. 1 and recreation way down there," she said.

Read that line again.

Perhaps she meant "...Water quality should be No. 1 and recreation way down there."

"It's a dying art," says Kia.

Wonder if readership will twig on that it was incorrect.

That's all we need...more people believing RECREATION should be number one.
As though they don't already!

Hope the mud-boggers are paying attention...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Welcome back, Gyula, to the blog world

...after the devastating loss of your spouse this summer.
Yes, Greater Vernon Water customers in the North Okanagan missed you--more appropriately--your "water sanity", and were prepared to wait until the time was right for you to continue.

And you've done that now.
With a flourish!

Here, in its entirety, is Gyula's latest installment (from his blog in the area's water woes:


Comments on the GVAC Special Meeting, September 1, 2016

An apology!

First of all, I would like to apologize to my faithful followers for a long pause I had in maintaining my blog. My family went through a trying time and I was unable to concentrate on the water issues. I intend to restart the provision of information to taxpayers of the community even though my peers have removed me from active duty at GVAC. 

Just to reassure you that I am not a hack pretending to be an expert let me re-present to you my qualifications. I obtained a diploma in Forest Engineering and subsequently a Master of Science Degree. I also have worked on a PhD which remains incomplete. In 1967 I was hired by the BC Ministry of Forest as a Research Scientist and charged with the development of a tree breeding program for the interior spruces of British Columbia. I have completed the plans for the project in 1967 and the plan is continuing to evolve to this day by my successors.

One of the project of my plan was to develop a forest research station in the Okanagan as it was necessary for the success of the breeding program. I have encountered major opposition from my peers in the BCFS Research Branch but, thanks to my superiors trust in me, I prevailed.The resulting Research Station can be seen at the south entrance to the City of Vernon. An unintended but very important consequence of my plan is the present siting of the Okanagan College in Coldstream. Additional benefits to Greater Vernon are the seed orchards that sprung up as climatic benefit to forest tree seed production was recognized by the Forest Service and the private forest sector.

Closer to home and to the subject of water: In 1990 I was elected to Coldstream Council as an Alderman. The first major challenge I faced as an Alderman was to vote on a request from VID for a grant of $10,000 from each of Vernon, Coldstream and the North Okanagan Regional District ostensibly to investigate ways to improve  water quality to VID's domestic customers. I considered the request, did some investigation and concluded that VID could only solve its problem either by treating all of their water supply, including that used for crop irrigation, to domestic quality or separate off the domestic customers from the irrigation system and supply them by a new domestic distribution system. It was a bad business plan by VID to try to sell something they did not have: domestic water. That report can be found here.

In future reports I will try to explain why a relatively simple solution to VID's dilemma developed into such a huge project. How a less than $100 million project developed into a plan costing $200 million or more without actually resolving the problem. I will also explore way how we could return to a sane Master Water Plan with no more costs than what we are facing now. I will also continue to attempt to convince my peers to agree to a fair and equitable water rate structure.

The report below is the first one of my information dissemination effort. I will explain my interpretation of data supplied by consultants and GVWU staff. The readers should examine my position, compare it to staff's interpretation and draw their own conclusions.

Let me turn to the evaluation of the data provided by staff at the September 1st Special GVAC Meeting. The staff report can be accessed here.
Thank you!  
The purpose of the special meeting was to provide statistical information on water consumption patterns staff collected during  2015. They also included revenue patterns during the same period. Staff presented several charts and tables to review so I summarized the more relevant information in simple terms.

Schedule B

The first chart provided by staff demonstrates the distribution of revenues in a visual format. Note the very high percentage of base fees (referred to by staff as “Infrastructure Base Fee”) contributed by the domestic customers.

RDNO’s stated policy on rate structure is: “50% paid by base fees, 50% by consumption fees”. As illustrated by the graph, this policy is not met by the rate structure. Domestic customers pay the majority of the “infrastructure costs”. Customers using less than 80 cu. m. always pay more base fees than consumption fees. This defeats the "user pay" policy GVWU adopted.
The capacity (size) of the infrastructure must be designed to meet the maximum daily demand. That is driven by large daily consumers like ICI (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional). As the chart demonstrates none-domestic users contribute 5% of the total base fee while the domestic customers shell out 92% while they could be served by a significantly smaller infrastructure.

Another note of interest is that the variable revenues from ICI customers are derived from a preferential rate of $1.58 per cubic meter regardless of consumption. The question may be asked: Why should large users get a preferential rate? Domestic customers are discouraged increased usage by penalty rates of $2.37 per cubic meter above 80 cu. m. per quarter. All customers should pay the same rate for a cubic meter of water.

The table below the GVWU chart summarizes the revenues in a tabular form. I prepared a summary of that table and it is presented below.

Total domestic+non-domestic revenue:         $18,246,978

The above table illustrates the unequal distribution of “Infrastructure Base Fees”: Domestic customers pay 63% of total, None-domestic 14.7% of total base fees.

In an earlier report (July 21, 2016, Schedule A, page 4 of 29) staff summarized the GVW average water consumption and revenue by class (see above table). Only 17.7% of customers used more than 80 m3 of water per quarter. A rough calculation (sum of all quarter consumption of the reporting jurisdictions divided by 12) of average consumption per domestic accounts was 56.4 m3 per quarter or $2.83 per m3 for a ratio of 64% base fee 36% user fee. Hardly a 50-50 ratio.

The following questions arise again: why should domestic customers pay so disproportionate amount for infrastructure when the size and therefore cost of infrastructure is driven by high maximum daily demand for water? Also: why should domestic customers and small businesses subsidize high consuming ICI customers with consumption rates?

Schedule J

The Table: GVW Water Accounting & and Water Loss illustrates consumption and consumption distribution among GVW customers as summarized in the Table below.

For comparison the table below presents the Predicted consumption figures from Technical Memorandum #1:

The difference between the predicted and actual consumption is quite significant (27,260 ML vs. 14,228 ML or ~92%). The significance of discrepancy shows up in increased infrastructure cost. Part of the high infrastructure cost is due to the oversized infrastructure.

The water loss (unaccounted-for-water) is quite significant. Of the 19,000 + ML inflow only  14,000 ML is metered on the consumer end. That is a loss of almost 5,000 ML or ~35% (as a percentage of the consumed water). The value of this lost water is anywhere from $3.9 million to $12 million depending on what water rate we consider ($0.79/ m3 or $2.37/m3).

Schedule K

A great deal of effort was spent on justifying the low agricultural contribution to revenue. My concern with the agricultural subsidy is that it is spent on treating agricultural water. This has no benefit for agriculture and it is a huge drain on domestic customers' pockets. If we were to provide cash to agriculture in lieu of compensation for water licenses obtained from agriculture it would benefit both parties.

According to the Summary Table the difference between agriculture expenses and revenue is only $63,349. It drastically differs from consultants estimates of between 12 to 18% of annual costs attributed to agriculture.

Schedule L

Debt payments are listed as $2,911,957 (capital of about $41.6 M) whereas the borrowing costs in Schedule K are shown as $2,176,545 (a capital of about $31.1 M).

There is a lot of information provided in the staff report and it is hoped that Directors utilize them properly. A proper distribution of rates would significantly reduce the burden born by domestic customers. It would be a lot fairer distribution of water rates. Domestic customers do not need preferential treatment, they just need fair treatment especially those who use the least amount of water."

"Domestic customers do not need preferential treatment,
 they just need fair treatment
 especially those who use the least amount of water."
                           Gyula Kiss, Coldstream councillor



 "Democracy equates to majority rule," offers Kia, adding "so Gyula Kiss remains a lone voice against the North Okanagan's water insanity."

That's a shame.
Because we certainly have bureaucracy!
In spades.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Road "Dieting" Continues

As the saying goes, it kind'a creeps up on you.
Change, that is.

Whether change is for the better--or not--is a matter of opinion.

The following photo landed in the mailbox today:

30th Avenue (circa ?)

Compare that photo (looking east on 30th Avenue, up to "Suicide Hill") to this approximation of the same street/area in 2016.

The question posed by the sender was: 

"The main street pictured used to be four-lane. 
Now it's two-lane and
 traffic frequently is backed up
 through a couple of traffic lights. 
  They call that Progress."

Road diet?

"It's Road Anorexia," affirms Kia adding, "obviously a bureaucrat went to a seminar."

...or Supporting the Downtown Vernon Association?
(i.e. your car is crawling at 1 kph anyway, might as well stay and shop if you can find a place to park).

Several years ago merchants on 43rd Avenue put up such a hue and cry that bureaucrats backed off dieting the road in front of their businesses.  Business owners had stated "our tax dollars paved four lanes here and it's to stay four lanes".

Those were the days when some local governments appeared to listen to and then.

Big Drone Brother?

Kiss FM's recent news story by Ron Manz was entitled: "Coldstream Backs Anti Smoking Plan", 

Coldstream council is backing the Canadian Cancer Society's push to have tobacco and vapour products banned from all outdoor public spaces in BC.

Mayor Garlick was quoted in the feature:

"How do we actually start enforcing it always. You have to have eyes and ears all the time watching and then there has to be some consequence to it so those are challenges always."
"What we came to the conclusion was it would have to be with an increase in bylaw enforcement.  That might not be a year around thing, just summertime and it didn't go any further than that this time.  It may come back though." increase in bylaw enforcement.

That's all we need...more $28.00 per hour quasi police issuing tickets.
All of whom need benefits and pensions and a desk and a computer.
All of which taxpayers need to fund.

Let's see the definition of what a public place is (taken from Edmonton's Bylaw 14614, Public Places Bylaw, consolidated March 25/2008)

“public place” means  any property,
 whether publicly or privately owned,
 to which members of the public
 have access as of right or by express
 or implied invitation,
 whether on payment of any fee or not; ..."

So is Coldstream going to enact an anti-smoking/anti-vaping bylaw?

It appears Coldstream is leaving it to individual councillors to make a motion to pursue.

"...eyes and ears all the time watching", Mayor Garlick

Kia has an idea that'd prevent hiring a whack of new bureaucrats:

"Why not do what GVW did during a drought years ago?, threatening to use aircraft (presumably rented on taxpayers' dimes) to see if people were topping up their pools,"  Kia said.

Big Brother.
Big Drone.
Big Drone Brother. 

Fear-mongering Hiatus?

This summer's ample precipitation in the North Okanagan was certainly welcome.

For more reasons than to water our lawns and gardens!

Many hoped it would, frankly, shut up the OBWB's incessant yammering about climate change and drought.

More than one Greater Vernon Water customer mentioned "this summer's frequent rain should keep the OBWB's mouths shut for a change," the individual clearly more than a tad weary of hearing their "doom and gloom stories". 

Many residents recall a water consultant's comment--"you're blessed with loads/tons of water"--during the lengthy Stakeholder Advisory Committee meetings during the Master Water Plan Review--yet nothing appeared to dissuade the OBWB's fear-mongering.

That remains true today in mid-September as the following excerpts of a Morning Star story from September 14th prove.  But this time it's a Black Press story (from one of their 112 newspapers, BP also owns the Morning Star), penned by a Kevin Parnell, headed "OBWB urges water planning". 

"...and recognize that our actions do affect surrounding watersheds in Canada, the U.S. and the world."

" the Okanagan...we're trying to get ahead of the problems."

"Warwick Sears (OBWB head) has considered the state of the problem in the Okanagan compared to what is happening in California."

"Use (the problems) as an example of what can happen if you don't plan properly.  We're trying to build relationships with stakeholders and different levels of government so when a crisis does happen we are a well-oiled machine."

Build relationships?
Surrounding watersheds ... the U.S. and the world?
Are the OBWB's ambitions a bit majestic? 

Not a mention in the story about gouging residents until they can't afford to do their young family's laundry.

Not a mention in the story about bureaucrats setting unrealistic revenue goals from a decidedly-management-heavy water authority, many of whom are engineers (yet they hire engineering consultants versus using their own professional skills!)

Not a mention that the Okanagan Basin Water Board is simply yet one more arm's-length appointed committee, who themselves (~50 people?) garner more than $600,000 annually from the Regional District of North Okanagan's for wages/benefits...all of which is money paid by residents, whether via taxes or water rates.

Complicit among Greater Vernon elected officials--including two mayors--are the bureaucrats of the Greater Vernon Water Authority who appear to have forgotten to update the public on reservoir levels at the Duteau site...since May!

Well, an updated reservoir level graph has been obtained by Vernon councillor Bob Spiers, and residents thank him for spurring the bean-counters into action...

(click the illustration to enlarge).

A commenter stated: "...they were all paranoid this spring for nothing."

But it appeared to be good press for them not just in the North Okanagan, but in Canada, the U.S. and the world."

Cue the cheering.
And before the scene fades to black, Kia's comment is noteworthy.

"A well-oiled machine?", queries Kia, concluding "nope, the OBWB is a well-greased machine, greased with OUR money."

We didn't vote the OBWB in.
And we can't vote the OBWB out.

But there are others we can, including provincial MLA Eric Foster.

And others who believe water runs uphill.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wanted: Ethics/Integrity Commissioner

Yessirreebob, time indeed for such a job description.

Especially in Coldstream.

Click on this image to enlarge ... and discover what's wrong.

Haven't found it?

Well, let's back up a bit then:
Telus described by Wikipedia as:  "Telus Corporation (stylized as TELUS) is a Canadian national telecommunications company that provides a wide range of telecommunications products and services including internet access, voice, entertainment, healthcare, video, satellite and IPTV television. The company is based in the Vancouver, British Columbia area; it was originally based in Edmonton, Alberta, before its merger with BCTel in 1999....:

So have you found it yet?

The letter from Telus, offering fibre optic service, is co-signed by Mayor Jim Garlick of Coldstream!
What the hell is an elected official doing scratching the back (condoning sale of a service) from a non-Crown corporation????

What indeed!

Sure, telus used to be a Crown corporation when it was incorporated in Alberta, but it merged with BC Tel in 1999.  And besides...other corporations offer competitive services to telus.

So was it ethical for Coldstream's mayor to co-sign the above letter?
I think not!

But Garlick likely felt a precedent--therefore, his duplication was okay--was set when Edmonton's mayor recently did the exact same thing!  Read the Hicks on Biz story here.  It's clear from some of the comments at the conclusion of that story that folks are not prepared to pay $100 a month more for the fibre optic service offered by telus.

Condoned by an Edmonton mayor?
I frankly don't care.
This "crossing the line" into providing support for a company's service is a lack of ethics, a lack of integrity.
Especially since Telus is listed on the stock exchange...

Seems I'm not the only person offended by such an action.
The topic has even been slated for discussion at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting (see page 68 of 130 here) which reads, in part:

  "...local government in B.C. regarding matters of questionable conduct
 and breaches of code of conduct of elected officials...
result(ing) in expensive quasi-judicial processes
eroding public confidence,
 strained internal relationships,
 and produce limited viable outcomes..."


It seems, though, that even the UBCM will study the topic to death, as evidenced by the same page:  "

"Rather than adopt a policy position endorsing an Integrity Commissioner concept at this time, it is recommended that the resolution be referred to the UBCM Executive. In cooperation with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and the Local Government Management Association of BC, additional policy work would be undertaken over the next 12 months and a full report and recommendation provided at the 2017 UBCM Convention."


Let's see the definition of integrity:

noun: integrity
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
"he is known to be a man of integrity"
synonyms:honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
"I never doubted his integrity"

We're not saying that money changed hands (as it did with the $1 million dollars to each of 18 regional districts to coerce/support/recommend/condone the Multi-Material Recycling program--which today remains a sham!), but what Garlick is doing is wrong.
Flat out wrong.

Multi-Material B.C. is today unaffectionately called Mini-Material B.C.

"What'll we call Mayor Garlick after a review of his integrity," wonders Kia.

How about Unelectable Garlick? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Attaboy, Peter!

It doesn't even matter what the topic is--and there are many "issues" in the North Okanagan--but Peter Moore's letter to the editor of the Morning Star, published today, hit the proverbial nail on its head with these last two paragraphs:

"We citizens, via our elected officials, should be directing provincial employees, not the other way around.

If government leaders and employees
do not follow the will of the people,
 I suggest democracy
 in the City of Vernon, the North Okanagan and
 our area of the province of B.C. has failed,
 and we should
remove these autocrats with our votes
 at the next provincial and municipal elections."

Peter Moore was, of course, referring to the Stickle Road/Highway 97 debacle. 

But the sentiment could just as easily apply to any of the myriad issues here.
Water prices, fees, spendthrift municipal (and provincial) governments, increasing bureaucracy/staff...on and on the list goes.

"The government asks us for input at public forums," says an observer, "and then ignores the majority's will."

"So why bother?",  replies another. 
Why indeed.

"Because government knows and decides what is best for you," says Kia unaffectedly, adding "they even have a government 'whip' to ensure everybody toes the line."

Maybe that whip can be employed come election time.