Independent review stalled for Greater Vernon water plan

Stakeholders committee wants to take a look at information first before possibly seeking outside help

Calls for independent scrutiny of Greater Vernon’s water system have been stalled.

The master water plan stakeholder advisory committee recommended Thursday to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee that the request for an independent engineering consultant be postponed pending review of the 2012 plan by the stakeholders group.

“It’s not necessary until we understand the plan better,” said Paul Williamson, SAC member.

The request for an independent consultant had come from the Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan.

However, Williamson, who made the motion to defer the request, stated that bringing a consultant on board now could be costly and add complexities to the discussion.

Opposition to the motion came from Terry Mooney, a SAC member and chairperson of the Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan.

“The idea behind the request is that a fresh new look of the plan is required,” said Mooney, adding that 1,000 people have signed a petition in favour of  a review.

The stakeholder advisory committee was formed after a majority of Greater Vernon residents voted against borrowing $70 million for the plan in 2014.

Mooney says the process that led to the failed referendum must be avoided.

“None of us are an expert on any of these areas. I would not want to see the public disenfranchised from an independent set of eyes and ears,” he said.

“We need advice along the way to discuss technical data.”

Other SAC members, though, pointed out that a peer review of the plan could occur in the future.

“At some stage it may be appropriate to say we hit a dam in moving this forward,” said Robert Evans.

Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor and SAC chairperson, is hopeful the 18 committee members will be able to be thorough in their deliberations.

“It will all be a fresh, new look because we have new people asking questions,” he said.

Thursday was the inaugural gathering of the SAC and members are trying to familiarize themselves with Greater Vernon’s water system. Numerous requests were made for information, including the price of operating the Kalamalka Lake and Duteau Creek sources.

“On the minds of people I talk to, it’s the cost,” said member Ray Foisy.

Also on Thursday, the committee decided that it wants to hear from a representative of the consulting engineering technical group that developed the 2012 master water plan.